Innovating to meet the challenges of COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit the UK, the impact on the health sector was instant, with tough measures introduced to protect staff and patients, as well as the wider community. 

But the pandemic also highlighted shortfalls in existing practices, particularly around vital medical equipment and PPE and the healthcare estate’s ability to flex to the new requirements. 

This, in turn, heaped pressure on suppliers of goods and services to innovate to support the NHS. 

And one example of this innovation comes from Greg Sunderland, owner of shading solutions company, Tritonpeak. 

No stranger to working within the healthcare market, Sunderland’s company had been supplying blinds and other shading solutions to hospitals for several years. 

But, as soon as the pandemic hit, he was set a new challenge by Andy Munro of Three6T Architecture, who was working at the Countess of Chester Hospital. 

He explains: “I had a blind company that supplied hospitals, commercial, and domestic markets. 

“At the beginning of COVID, Andy asked me if we had a screen that could be used to divide bed spaces.   

 Avoiding cross contamination 

“Unlike others on the market he specified that it must not roll up, must not be a dirt or dust trap, and must retract. 

“We had a domestic product which was used as a room divider, and I had the idea of adding clear fabric to that so staff could see into patient bed bays without having to go to the bedside and potentially risking cross contamination.” 

Sunderland modified the product and a prototype was set up in the hospital to be scrutinised by health and safety and infection prevention and control (IPC) teams. 

“We were asked to present a cost-effective solution for rapid implementation, from which we created the Tritonshield,” he said. 

“The initial design was clear vinyl, but we found that when it retracted it stuck together, so we put a fibreglass product at the top. 

“We added a strengthening bar under this and created a finger-touch operating system so there was no wand hanging down that could hit staff in the head as they moved around the beds. 

“We then found that the top, when cleaned, was leaving smears, so we created a solid colour which eliminated this. 

“Having perfected the prototype we then fitted screens across the hospital.” 

Unlike existing products, which utilise rollers; the new Tritonshield partition does not take up valuable floor space and is instead attached to the ceiling in a similar way to traditional curtain tracks. 

A standard screen has four two-tone panels, clear up to 1.85m for patient visibility and with a solid-colour, non-stick fabric at the top.  

The panels extend to 2.4m between the beds and can then retract back in the four-channel headrail, leaving the bay clear when not required.  

 This specification can be easily modified to meet most bespoke requirements. 

 Floor-to-ceiling protection 

Sunderland said: “At the beginning of COVID it was vital to be able to segregate patients, and traditional screening solutions meant having to remove bed spaces, with up to 40% being lost to accommodate the footprint of the screens. And this was at a time when demand on hospital capacity was great. 

“Our solution fitted right next to the existing curtain track, providing infection prevention and control, visibility of the patient, and the option of privacy as the curtains were still in use.” 

Installed with just a few fixings and in a matter of minutes, Tritonshield offers ceiling-to-floor protection to maximise hospital bed capacity. 

And it has been designed to be easy to clean, with a two-step sanitise-and-wipe process. 

Since its launch, more than 400 units have been installed in hospitals, including at the Countess of Chester, Southport and Ormskirk Hospital, and on the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital COVID ward. 

Smaller iterations are also being used in neonatal wards and there have been installations in waiting rooms, breast screening, and theatre recovery areas, supporting the NHS’s efforts to restore services. 

 A quick fit 

Sunderland said: “It is a really-flexible product and whatever the client wants to use it for, we can do.  

“Critically, it does not roll up – rolled fabric can create an infection control risk – and, being ceiling mounted, it does not present any trip hazards, making it safe for staff and patients. 

“We have had a very-positive response to each new modification of Tritonshield, with the ease of cleaning and the fact bed space is not affected key selling points. 

“And, from the very beginning, we wanted it to be affordable, so it costs between £500-£750 per screen and can be fitted in just a few minutes. 

“Post-COVID I believe we have created a long-term solution for the NHS and we are talking to architects now about how it can be specified for new ward projects.   

“And we are currently in discussion with airflow and purification specialists to enable Tritonpeak to offer a full package of protection for retrofit and new-build projects.” 

Moving forward, Sunderland is now working with trusts to collect data on the impact of his innovation. 

He told hdm: “We are doing research at Southport and Ormskirk. 

“Currently, there is no data on the impact of screening solutions on staff absence, so we want to pull that together to see the difference. 

“Going forward we hope to do more tests and will be working with other trusts to gather this evidence. 

“Purely through trial and error, we have designed something that has been moulded by necessity.” 

For more information on Tritonshield contact triton[email protected] 

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