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'Design Bugs Out' project aims to tackle hospital infections


Prototypes of innovative new designs for existing hospital furniture and equipment, aimed at helping the fight against MRSA and other healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs), will be unveiled today by the Design Council

A range of everyday hospital furniture and equipment was designed to be easier to clean, as well as influencing patient and staff behaviour to reduce exposure to infection.

The ‘Design Out Bugs’ products include:

  • A commode that is easy to dismantle for easy cleaning, and takes out the hard-to-clean gaps and joins of current designs.
  • A porter’s chair which is durable, comfortable, and has less ‘touchpoints’ where infection can be spread.
  • An ‘intelligent’ mattress which changes colour when it becomes compromised by body fluids.
  • A patient bedside system comprising bedside storage and over-bed table which eliminates hard-to-clean corners.
  • A patient chair with a system of magnetised, removable cushions with easy-change laundered covers.
  • A self-timing cannula with an indicator telling staff when the intravenous line needs to be changed.
  • Handles for cubicle curtains with a magnetic mechanism, that provides an easily sanitised ‘grab-zone’.
  • A wipeable, polythene-covered blood-pressure cuff with magnetic closures.

The Design Council was commissioned to lead the Design Bugs Out project by the Department of Health as part of its HCAI Technology Innovation Programme. The programme aims to speed up the development and adoption of new and novel technologies to help combat HCAIs, especially MRSA and C.difficile.

David Kester, Chief Executive of the Design Council, said: ‘MRSA and cdifficile dominate headlines and raise concerns for us all. Design Bugs Out has demonstrated that a little bit of good design can go a long way to providing simple, practical solutions based on the real needs of patients and hospital staff. While the designers and manufacturers deserve the big plaudits, the NHS also deserves a pat on the back for recognising design as a midwife for innovation.


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Readers' comments (2)

  • Kadiyali Srivatsa

    Hospital organisation, speciality mix and MRSA; published by DH, UK in 2007, clearly state Trusts with high bed occupancy rates, high levels of temporary nursing staff or low cleanliness scores no longer have significantly higher MRSA rates. In one sense, the disappearance of these relationships is puzzling.

    Staphylococcus aureus (SA) are bacteria commonly carried on the skin (usually in the armpit or groin) or in the nose of healthy people. Around 30% of the general population is carrying SA bacteria at any one time. SA bacteria can cause infections, many of which are relatively minor, such as pimples and boils, and can be treated easily with antibiotics.

    However, SA bacteria can also cause serious infections such as Bacteraemia (or bloodstream) infections occur when MRSA enters a normally sterile blood stream through either an intravenous cannula/catheter or a local site of infection (e.g. a wound, ulcer, or abscess)

    MRSA is thought to be commonly spread through people having close contact with infected or colonised people and inadequate hand hygiene by healthcare workers is believed to be an important cause. These bacteria are also said to be resistant to various biocides used to clean equipment and prepare skin. However, MRSA infections can also be caused by “auto-infection”, whereby people carrying MRSA on their skin can inadvertently become infected through the spread of those bacteria into their body, including the bloodstream when doctors and nurses perform practical procedures when injecting drugs, phlebotomy, inserting IV cannula, catheters and endotracheal tube. MRSA is almost always spread through physical contact, rather than through air or water.

    I still cannot understand why design council is wasting time and funds developing more hardware, which is unlikely to help reduce invasive bacterial infections that kill patients.

    With the threat of Swine flu looming, and all evidence-pointing finger at MRSA as a major threat of secondary bacterial infection, I sincerely hope the design council will spend time and money on reducing equipments and bringing in changes to various practical procedures. Reduce contaminated hospital waste accumulated in the yellow sharp bins is mandatory to fight this threat of spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals.


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  • Hi Kadiyali,

    I work for the Design Council and I just wanted to respond to a couple of aspects of your comments:

    Design Bugs Out is just one strand of the wider activity commissioned by the Department of Health to fight healthcare associated infections on a number of fronts including improving cleanliness, fast-tracking / introducing new technologies and improving clinical practice. MRSA infections place a huge financial burden on the NHS – costing an estimated £1 billion a year. By contrast, the designs in the Design Bugs Out programme cost £100,000 - and the resulting innovations could well play a major role in reducing the burden healthcare associated infections.. The design teams and manufacturers involved researched a number of areas where cross-infection was likely to occur and put forward potential solutions such as the ones seen in the article.

    We're hoping that many of the above prototypes will go into production and we understand that they will most likely be purchased as part of hospitals’ ongoing furniture and equipment replacement programme - not to directly replace items that are far from the end of their lives. The intention is to offer much better options for hospital purchasing managers, but at an equivalent price. A key part of the brief to designers was to create something which could be produced at a similar cost to existing furniture and equipment. Indeed, some of the items may even be cheaper than existing products.

    Hope that helps?

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