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Innovation Agency plays vital role in production of ‘game-changing’ protective equipment

Engineers more used to working on nuclear submarines, a specialist industrial manufacturer and staff from the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT), have collaborated to develop pioneering new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with support from the Innovation Agency.

Known as the Morecambe Bay Hood, the full-face protective hood delivers a continuous stream of clean filtered air which significantly reduces ‘fogging’ and aids improved communication and empathy between healthcare staff and patients.

Stuart Hosking-Durn, Head of Resilience and Patient Flow for UHMBT, said:

“The dedication of our frontline workers has been instrumental in fighting COVID-19, but the Morecambe Bay Hood will be an absolute game-changer for us as we continue to care for patients, significantly improving comfort, durability and communication.

“It’s a UK success story, with our thriving tech sector supporting our frontline workers as they help our country to emerge from the pandemic. The hoods could be rolled out more widely across the UK and could enable the NHS to treat patients with infectious diseases more safely.”

The project began after Stuart and the UHMBT team approached BAE Systems with a request to help design an air-fed mask, following an earlier collaboration to produce face shields and curtain hooks for the NHS Trust.

Engineers from BAE Systems’ in Barrow and Lancaster-based Lancastle designed the specialist hood free of charge. The first devices are now being rolled out to hospital wards in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Working with the Innovation Agency – the Academic Science Network for the North West Coast – the project has taken just 11 months to go from concept to the hood gaining Health and Safety Executive (HSE) approval for use during the pandemic.

Gemma Byrne, Programme Manager with the Innovation Agency’s Transformation Team, said:

“I was delighted to hear about this timely, innovative collaboration and was able to support it by drawing on my experience in the product management of medical devices and contacts.”

The upgraded PPE is equipped with an innovative air manifold system with special noise-reducing features, a large visor and a protective sheath which extends over the chest and back. State-of-the-art 3D printing technologies were used throughout the prototyping process to accelerate its development and reduce costs and will continue to be used for production of the complex air manifold system.

Dr Sarah Price, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at UHMBT, said:

“One of the main things about the pandemic has been the coming together of people in an almost super-human effort to create something that makes a difference - the Morecambe Bay Hood is a brilliant example of that!

“That human ingenuity, the willpower to make something happen, the belief that you can do it and to have that on our doorstep where it makes a real impact for people who work in the local health service, is fantastic. It feels safe to wear the Morecambe Bay Hood. It’s comfortable, easily cleanable and it means that the whole of your face is on show for those interactions that really matter. It will also cut down on the amount of PPE wastage. These things are real game-changers.”

Neville Clokey, owner of Lancastle, said:

“It’s fantastic to be part of the team that has designed the Morecambe Bay Hood. My wife is a former nurse and both of our children were born at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary so it has been great to be part of this. There’s a feeling of satisfaction in being able to give something back.”

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