Innovating to find rapid solutions for ambulance decontamination

NHS Wales and the Welsh Ambulance Service challenged businesses to help develop rapid sanitising solutions for vehicles in the fight against coronavirus.

In partnership with the Welsh Government, Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Centre of Excellence, and the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) businesses have been awarded R&D contracts to work with NHS Wales to rapidly develop solutions to help speed up the time it takes to clean ambulances and other vehicles, and ultimately save lives in the national battle against the pandemic.

It currently takes up to 45 minutes to clean ambulances once they have transported a patient suspected of having COVID-19, and cleaning stations are often remote, particularly in rural locations, delaying ambulances from responding to further emergency calls.

Over 200 applications have been received and shortlisted after the Trust put out a call to action through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). Successful business have now been selected to develop and test their solutions on Ambulances within Wales over the next few weeks.

The challenge is managed by the Welsh SBRI Centre of Excellence, based at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, with support from Welsh Government, DASA and Innovate UK. Testing will take place in partnership with DSTL Porton Down.

Jonathan Turnbull-Ross, the Trust’s Interim Assistant Director of Quality Governance, said: “The safety of our patients and staff through the Covid-19 outbreak is paramount and we have to be on top of our infection prevention and control measures.

“Typically, it can take an additional 30 to 45 minutes to clean an ambulance vehicle that has transported a suspected Covid-19 patient, but the process can also take upwards of several hours, depending on the level of decontamination required.
 

“We have to think outside the box if we want a solution that is going to speed up this process, and release our crews back on the road quicker to respond to other calls.

“We were delighted with the number of submissions we received, and genuinely excited by the ideas and concepts that these businesses have to offer.
 

“We look forward to seeing how these will evolve through the evaluation stages, and to understand how these innovations can be further supported to roll out across Wales, which will ultimately save lives.”

The challenge is managed by the Welsh SBRI Centre of Excellence, based at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, with support from Welsh Government, DASA and Innovate UK. Testing will take place in partnership with DSTL Porton Down.

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, added: “I’m really pleased the Welsh Government is supporting the Welsh Ambulance Service to spearhead this UK-wide search for sanitation solutions. 

“Anything which reduces the turnaround time for our ambulance fleet will ultimately save lives because innovation is never more important than in times of crisis.  
 

“I hope too, that we can find solutions which can be used by our other emergency services and the dedicated workers keeping our public transport on the move.”

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