We talk to Sharon Eustice, a nurse consultant for bladder and bowel, who developed the Femmeze Vagina Trainer
1. What is your background in nursing and what is your current job?
Following a staff nurse role in secondary care in the late ‘80s, I qualified as a district nurse and also a nurse practitioner. I have held posts as a clinical manager/leader and an assistant director of nursing. I am an independent nurse prescriber. Over the last few years I held the position as chair of the Association forContinence Advice. Currently I am a nurse consultant for bladder and bowel. I also have a corporate clinical role with the local professional executive committee/clinical commissioning forum in the PCT. I have recently been elected as a member to the International Continence Society Nursing Committee.
2. What inspired your invention?
A large proportion of our work is with women aged 45-65. Some these will experience rectocele (posterior wall prolapse of the vagina). In this distressing long-term condition, the rectum herniates forward through a vaginal tissue-wall tear, obstructing bowel emptying. Women with this condition have to digitally re-position the rectocele to align the rectum for voiding. They have to use their fingers as there are no devices on the market. In addition to the unpleasant process, it requires good dexterity, which poses added problems with age.
3. What problem is it trying to solve?
To seek a practical solution to help people with this condition reposition their rectocele, using a handheld single-user device to replace the need to use fingers and therefore improve dignity. The Femmeze Vagina Trainer is a single patient reusable medical product that has been developed to offer a cost-effective, hygienic and dignified solution to help women who suffer from a pelvic organ prolapse, better to be able to self-manage their condition in a more discrete manner. Before the creation of the Femmeze women were left with having to use their fingers to realign their rectum before passing stools; which would not only create hygiene problems, but may also damage the area within the vagina especially by people with long or false nails and would also be difficult for older women with decreased dexterity in their hands. Rectoceles are common in women who have gone through child birth and it is estimated that in the UK alone 300,000 per year suffer with this long term condition.
4. What financial or other user benefits are there?
Self-management and an alternative to surgical intervention or a practical solution pending surgery
5. How did you go about developing it?
I took my initial drawing of the device I believed best suited this need to the NHS Innovations team, who were extremely supportive to help me get it to a prototype stage and then further developed with the additional help of Medical Devices Technology International (MDTI).
6. What obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
Very few obstacles that couldn’t be overcome with discussions and negotiations.
7. Is it going into commercial production? If so, when?
We have worked with the MDTI who have now launched the product nationally. And it is available through the NHS Supply Chain.
8. What do you hope for the future of your product?
To put it through rigorous service evaluation, before considering a trial.