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The University of Southampton
Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

PERSO effectiveness published

Published: 6 April 2022
Two of the PeRSo variants
Two of the PeRSo variants with (a) long and (b) short hood types

Researchers in Southampton demonstrate a more effective and sustainable personal protective equipment strategy for COVID-19 in the NHS.

A new article in Frontiers in Medical Technology shows that research by the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton (UHS) has demonstrated that a newly developed respirator hood is a safe form a personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers and support staff. As well as being preferred by patients and staff to standard facemasks, they provide cost saving opportunities for the NHS and did not face the supply chain issues experienced for single-use PPE early in the pandemic, concurrently reducing the high waste resulting from standard PPE.

At the start of the pandemic, a collaboration of University and Hospital staff, with industry partners, developed prototype reusable, battery-powered respirators (PeRSo) as alternative PPE to standard disposable face masks. After initial trials, widespread deployment was approved; in the first wave, over 1500 PeRSos were used, and over 3500 were used during the second wave, all individually requested by staff.

The respirators have a waist-mounted rechargeable battery powered unit, which filters air extremely effectively and then blows clean air into a loose-fitting hood with a clear visor. They received approval from the regulators for use in hospitals during the pandemic.

The key findings of the study published in Frontiers in Medical Technology were that the respirators were significantly preferred by staff, as they felt safer and more comfortable, and preferred by patients who could see their carers’ faces in full, making communication much easier.

Economic analysis showed widespread PeRSo use to be cost saving after approximately 10 weeks, and as they are reusable the supply chain issues that limited PPE availability were resolved.  The environmental impact of disposable PPE was minimised, as hoods only need replacing approximately every 3 months. Furthermore, widespread use led to relatively low staff absence during the second wave of the pandemic, and over 80% of staff requested their PeRSos to be stored for any future rise in cases. This improved PPE was offered to all staff, including cleaners, porters, physiotherapists and healthcare assistants, who have had high infection rates in other NHS trusts.  

The team therefore concluded that PeRSos represent an alternative form of PPE to protect healthcare workers from coronavirus infection with multiple advantages over traditional approaches.

Paul Elkington, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton and co-director of the project, said “We have shown that widespread PeRSo use gives staff the ability to choose their level of PPE, and is preferred by staff and patients.  Also, this approach reduces the enormous waste of standard PPE and is cost saving as the respirators are reusable. I'd like to recognise NAMRIP's role in helping to seed the PeRSo project, because it was at a NAMRIP event that we built the initial collaboration that we used to address this need when it arose“.

Dr Trevor Smith of University Hospital Southampton and director of the coronavirus response in Southampton, said “This is a prime example of the local hospital, university and industry working together to come up with innovative a solution to the crisis that has benefited patients and staff alike. Our experience can help the wider NHS to improve its PPE provision as we continue to cope with the pressures of the pandemic".

The image shows two of the PeRSo variants with (a) a long hood type, and (b) short hood type that exposes the ears (adapted from Front. Med. Technol., 14 October 2021,


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