Nurse and hospital engineer solve patient bed problem by designing product

When we think of a nurse or engineer we don’t think of them as inventors. But that’s exactly what a nurse and hospital engineer at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust have become after they designed a new product with the support of the Innovation Team.

The duo noticed there were issues behind patients’ bed with messy tubing and wires, posing an infection control issue and causing problems when clinicians tried to access the vital equipment.

Head of resuscitation services Emma Thomson and Steve Connew, former electro-biomedical engineering operational manager, felt improvements could be made – but without an existing product to help tidy up the area around a patient’s bedhead they invented one themselves!

Steve said: “A jumble of tubing and wires are by a patient’s bedhead. It causes nursing staff problems, it doesn’t look good or professional either. I thought there must be something to tidy them up – but I couldn’t find anything. There wasn’t a uniform solution and I even asked across different hospitals – but nothing existed.”

nurse in maroon scrubs and man in shirt standing by end of patient bed by equipment

Ward sister Jane Kemp and Steve Connew with the Bedhead Tidy

Their idea was simple – a product that would tidy up the tubing around a patient’s bedhead, moving it away from the floor, preventing confusion from flow meters and ensure it wasn’t an infection control risk. But driving it forwards and getting the idea off the ground meant they needed support, funding and advice.

Steve added: “I just thought simple is best and the holder with built-in hooks means it can hold nasal cannulas, suction devices and yankers.”

Teaming up with the Trust’s Innovation Team, Steve and Emma were able to gain access to the support, expertise and funding they needed and the Bedhead Tidy will now be rolled out to the wards.

The idea, design protection, financial support in costing it out, market analysis to research competitor products and the backing from the team in how to bring it to market was driven by the Innovation Team.

Close up of woman in maroon scrubs smiling at camera

Emma Thomson, head of resuscitation services

Emma said: “I’ve never thought of myself as an inventor before – but when you’re working in healthcare it means you have to adapt all the time to the needs of the patient. Having that mindset means you’re often thinking of a better way of doing things – and that includes the equipment you’re using or equipment you wish you had to use!

“The Bedhead Tidy seemed such an obvious idea, but it’s great we had the support to develop it and now we can fit it to all beds across the Trust to help staff and therefore patients.”

Porters have strength tested it to see how durable it is, patients have trialled a prototype at Colchester Hospital, staff have fed back on using it and now there are three versions being created for hospital beds, specialist care beds (neonatal and critical care) as well as a design for the beds in the community.

Jane Kemp, ward sister at Easthorpe Ward at Colchester Hospital, has used the product as part of the trials to test it out. She said the product really helps the team.

She added: “It’s a simple device and helps us do our job. It’s also cost saving as prevents wastage from items that are no longer able to be used and have to be thrown away. Every penny counts.”

Close up of equipment at end of patient bed

Bedhead Tidy in use

The Bedhead Tidy is the first case that has been registered and is now ready for manufacture with 1,000 units being produced.

The Trust’s charity – Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity – has provided £5,000 ‘innovation vouchers’ to contribute to the project as well as an additional £9,180 towards the project to ensure every ward has access to the Bedhead Tidy for their beds. Through the Gibbons Innovation Fund the charity offers £5,000 innovation vouchers to staff to support early stage development of their ideas.

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