Furniture designs combat hospital infections

Prototype designs aimed at stopping the spread of MRSA and other infections in hospitals are being unveiled at the Design Council in central London today.

The prototypes are the result of the Design Bugs Out challenge, commissioned by the Department of Health and NHS Purchasing and run by the Design Council, which sought designer/manufacturer teams to redesign the bedside environments in hospitals.

Pearson Lloyd, working with manufacturer Kirton Healthcare, has created a commode, which is easy to disassemble for cleaning, and a patient bedside chair with magnetised removable cushions.

Hollington, with Herman Miller, has designed a new patient locker/cabinet and an over-bed table.

Kinneir Dufort, with manufacturer Hospital Metalcraft, has created another patient locker/cabinet, while Minima, with manufacturer Vernacar, has designed an easy-to-clean porter’s chair.

In a separate strand of the initiative, the Design Council has worked with the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art to develop everyday items used by patients and hospital staff.

This has resulted in new designs for a pulse oximeter, a blood-pressure cuff, a wipe dispenser, a mattress which changes colour when exposed to body fluids, a self-timing cannula, and a clip that slides on to curtains to create an easily cleanable handle.

Health Minister Ann Keen says, ‘Patients expect hospitals to be clean, functional and comfortable. Design Bugs Out challenges the UK’s design and manufacturing community to come up with new ideas to meet all of these objectives.

‘Furniture and equipment that are easy to clean will help to reduce healthcare-associated infections as well as improving the overall patient experience.’

Richard Seymour, chairman of the judging panel which selected the design teams, says, ‘Generally speaking, I run a mile from “competitions”, but Design Bugs Out was something completely different: a real, live-firing opportunity to line up some of our best designers with a truly monumental and urgent social issue.

‘It’s been a privilege to work with the advisory panel and the teams to get the solutions to this point, and many of the solutions speak for themselves when it comes to how to marry the practical with the psychological. No one should underestimate what a tough series of challenges these are.’

David Kester, chief executive of the Design Council, says, ‘This is a terrific illustration of how the power of design is helping to improve public services by finding innovative new ways to tackle challenging issues.’

The prototypes will be featured in the next issue of Design Week, out tomorrow, and taken on a national tour of selected hospitals.

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