Vernacare partners with Lancashire Teaching Hospitals to pioneer innovation in continence care

Trust provides feedback to bring VernaFem disposable female urinal to market

Linda Watson, clinical nurse specialist for the prevention and control of infection at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Infection prevention product manufacturer, Vernacare, has collaborated with Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to pioneer a safe, dignified and cost-saving new innovation in continence care for female patients.

Vernacare has worked with the trust's Centre for Health Research and Innovation, to develop the VernaFem disposable female urinal.

The new eco-friendly product is providing an alternative to catheterisation and other continence care options, such as bedpans and pads, for immobile female patients.

Being able to test prototypes at the Lancashire simulation centre speeded up our development process and market launch because we were able to work out any design issues in a realistic clinical setting before final product evaluation by patients

VernaFem's ergonomic design empowers patients to go to the toilet with little or no assistance from healthcare staff, helping to increase dignity, confidence and self esteem. As a single-use pulp product, it increases patient safety and helps to tackle the spiralling cost of healthcare acquired infections.

The trust was involved in the new product development process as part of Vernacare's clinical focus group.

Kina Bennett, innovation and ideas facilitator for the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Centre for Health Research and Innovation, said: "After our initial involvement in the product specification phase, we invited Vernacare to an industry consultation event to introduce our advanced facilities. They then tested prototypes of the VernaFem in our simulation centre. This provided access to realistic high-fidelity female mannequins that can be programmed to simulate numerous clinical scenarios, reflecting the real challenges faced in patient care."

She added: "It is imperative that the NHS works with industry. We have ideas and an awareness of problems, but we don't necessarily know how to solve them, which is where industry can help."

In the next development phase, the trust took part in a national product evaluation study to gain staff and patient reaction to the VernaFem, which was trialled across six clinical areas - adolescent paediatrics, maternity and gynaecology, neuro-rehabilitation, stroke, elderly medicine and orthopaedics.

Jane Kent, new product development manager for Vernacare, said: "Lancashire Teaching Hospital's input has been invaluable in helping us to bring the VernaFem to market. Being able to test prototypes at the Lancashire simulation centre speeded up our development process and market launch because we were able to work out any design issues in a realistic clinical setting before final product evaluation by patients. The positive patient and staff feedback identified that the product was right first time, so we have avoided the lengthy and costly process of further design modifications and re-evaluation."

Improving healthcare through innovation research and education is one of our strategic priorities and we are very proud to have worked with Vernacare to develop the new VernaFem, which will provide greater treatment choices for patients, while improving infection prevention and efficiency

Karen Partington, trust chief executive, added: "Improving healthcare through innovation research and education is one of our strategic priorities and we are very proud to have worked with Vernacare to develop the new VernaFem, which will provide greater treatment choices for patients, while improving infection prevention and efficiency.

“A key challenge across the trust is in improving quality of care while at the same time saving money to reinvest in other areas of patient care. Innovation can provide more cost-effective treatments and devices. Engaging with external parties through innovation can also help with the recruitment of high-calibre staff."

The pulp urinal is made from recycled newspaper and has a wide base for stability and to maximise capacity. One of the key design challenges met was to create a wide opening, but minimise spillage, especially when the product is tilted. The opening has a curved lip, which moulds to the female form for easier positioning and comfort.

The product is now being introduced on various wards at the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospitals.

Paula Nuttall, trust patient safety improvement facilitator, said: "We want options that can reduce the need to catheterise, which should be the last option. We will be using VernaFem in areas such as theatre recovery, stroke, orthopaedics, adolescent paediatrics, rehabilitation, and women's health. Here, it will maintain patients' independence and dignity, which will boost their confidence."

Linda Watson, clinical nurse specialist for the prevention and control of infection, added: "As a disposable, single-use system the female urinal meets best practice from an infection prevention perspective. The urine is more contained than in a traditional bedpan, so spillages will also be reduced. The innovative design of the female urinal makes it easy to use and it will release staff time as many patients will be able to self toilet. Where the patient requires assistance only one nurse is needed, compared to two to position a patient when using a bed pan."

And Rachel Imms, advanced occupational therapist, told BBH: "Having been involved with Vernacare's initial focus group, I'm proud to see the product launched and to have played a part in its development.

“A number of patients say the most difficult aspect of being an in-patient is being reliant on other people, but the VernaFem encourages independence and improves privacy and dignity. This was appreciated by teenage patients on the adolescent paediatric ward, which took part in the product evaluation. It could help reduce the risk of falls from patients trying to rush to the toilet and has the potential to reduce pressure sores."

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