A & E doctor invents cleaning equipment to help beat hospital bugs

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AN ACCIDENT and emergency doctor has used his experience to create equipment to clean everyday medical devices, to help drive down rates of hospital associated infections.

Paul Hercock set up Mantra Medical, in Sheffield, to develop two products – one for cleaning blood pressure cuffs and the other for cleaning pulse oximeters, devices that are pegged to a patient’s finger to measure pulse rate and oxygen saturations.

The innovative bedside equipment would allow nurses to clean the medical devices within seconds, helping to control potential infection spread between patients.

The blood pressure cuff cleaner works by using UV light, while the pulse oximeter cleaner uses a replaceable cartridge with elements providing a mixture of chemical and mechanical cleaning.

The company’s growth is being supported by Creative Sheffield – a partner in the South Yorkshire Sector Growth Enhancement Programme (SYSGEP). Creative Sheffield is Sheffield City Council’s economic development function, which is committed to boosting business growth in the city. SYSGEP is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Yorkshire and The Humber ERDF Programme (2007-13).

The HCAI Research Network estimates that around one in 10 patients pick up an infection, such as MRSA, C. Difficile and Norovirus, during their stay in a UK hospital, with an estimated 5,000 patients dying each year as a direct result.
Dealing with infections costs the NHS £1bn a year. The Network cites contaminated medical devices as a common cause.

Joining Hercock on the board at Mantra are his father Tony Hercock and former master cutler Neil MacDonald, whose credentials include being non-executive directors in NHS trusts, along with design expert Richard Jones.

The company will seek to license the manufacture of its products after they have been fully developed, trialled and tested. There has already been interest in the equipment from NHS trusts in the region and beyond and it is hoped they can be brought to market within two years. Hercock is also developing the next generation of products, including a cleaner for stethoscope diaphragms and a wound closure device.

Hercock said: “Many people think about how they would do things better when they’re at work. I was concerned that while there is a campaign around clean hands, things used every day should be clean as well. We can do more to reduce the spread of infections to the benefit of patients and the NHS. 

“The main problem is that cleaning is something extra to do for staff who are already very busy, so the key to the solution was creating a system where people are only expected to do what they already do.

“The devices are designed to go on a trolley and, with the pulse oximeters for example, it’s just a case of nurses dropping them into the cleaner rather than a basket.”

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