Naomi Campbell is convinced her invention will put an end to avoidable dehydration
Five years ago Naomi Campbell, a senior minor injury nurse and mother of four children, noticed her 12-year-old daughter using a toy so she could drink water while lying in bed.
An “aha moment” occurred - she realised this idea could aid frail and infirm patients to sip fluids independently and always have water within reach.
“Having nursed my elderly mother at home through a long and terminal illness, I was acutely aware of the difficulties in trying to assist a vulnerable infirm patient to drink sufficient fluids,” she says.
“I felt deeply sad that I had not thought of this idea before so, in my mother’s memory, I was determined to find a way of developing this simple idea to help patients and nurses combat the problem of dehydration.”
She has developed a disposable drinking aid that can be used in virtually any clinical or home environment.
Ms Campbell trained as a nurse 30 years ago at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Her career has predominantly been in urgent care and, for the past 12 years, she has worked part-time in minor injuries at Falmouth Hospital in Cornwall.
She says: “I often need to walk through the adjacent care of the elderly ward. Each time, I am reminded of the daily problems faced by patients and staff. It’s humbling to see my colleagues relentlessly striving to provide excellent care under such challenging circumstances.
“I am convinced that my drinking aid will help nurses enhance hydration, patient dignity and quality of care. It should become available to appropriate patients as soon as possible.”
Two years ago, Ms Campbell became aware of NHS Innovations South West (NISW), one of nine regional not-for-profit hubs set up to help NHS staff turn ideas into products and services that could generate an income for the trust and the employee.
The service supports an idea by assessing patient benefit, market analysis, intellectual property, prototyping, funding, clinical assessment and sourcing a commercial partner.
She approached NISW and, after a rigorous assessment, her idea was adopted. NISW then successfully applied for a Regional Innovation Fund; this has helped fund the design and a 3D prototype made by the local university, and a patent application.
“I had no idea of the level of work and complicated issues involved in intellectual property, which make it difficult to talk openly about the design,” she says.
“I have learnt a lot about innovation and the manufacturing industry, without which the NHS would have no equipment. I am now studying to become a trust innovation lead and hope to use my experiences to support colleagues.”
She is developing a small trial, which will be tested at the community hospital with help from hospital staff and the trust’s research and development department.
Ms Campbell has developed an in-depth knowledge of dehydration. Last year, she was invited to join national steering groups in the East of England, Department of Health and Care Quality Commission. She has presented the project to the Royal College of Nursing, the Chief Nursing Officer and the Parliamentary Hydration Forum.
She says the most frustrating parts are the slow pace of developing an idea and acquiring funding.
“With every national report, news article or story related to dehydration and thirsty patients, I am bursting at the seams to get my project moving. I feel very strongly that there is an ethical and moral responsibility to see this project fully developed.”
Ms Campbell is also developing documentation to improve fluid intake monitoring in long-term care facilities and intends to develop a training package.
“This combined project offers a potentially sustainable solution to the problem of dehydration and I believe it will help eradicate avoidable chronic dehydration in all care settings.”