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The University of Southampton

Respirator developed by University introduced on Southampton hospital's wards

Published: 22 April 2020

University Hospital Southampton has become the first healthcare provider to widely introduce a pioneering protective respirator hood, designed by researchers at the University of Southampton, for staff treating patients with COVID19.

The project was initiated by Professor Paul Elkington, a consultant and professor in respiratory medicine in Southampton, together with Professor Hywel Morgan and colleagues in electronics and computer science (ECS) and engineering at the University of Southampton, along with industry experts to make it a reality.

The equipment, designed with the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre in collaboration with clinicians at University Hospital Southampton, was developed into a prototype in just a week, then tested on wards and manufactured at scale in less than a month.

Known as PeRSo, it consists of a fabric hood which covers the wearer's head and a plastic visor to protect their face.

It delivers clean air through a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter with belt-mounted fan pack, can be worn continuously for eight to nine hours and is reusable after appropriate cleaning.

Frontline healthcare staff at UHS tested the prototypes on the wards last month and the concept has been made open-source so it is available to be manufactured around the world.

Following this testing and safety clearance for use as a alternative to surgical face masks, UHS placed an order of 5,000 with Southampton-based manufacturer INDO (on behalf of Baynhams).

The first deliveries have arrived and it is now subject to an initial clinical evaluation as a replacement for surgical masks in selected areas.

The equipment has not yet received regulatory approval for use as an alternative to FFP3 masks with visors for staff in high-risk clinical areas but is currently undergoing evaluation.

Industry partners include INDO along with McLaren and Kemp Sails.

“Frontline medical staff are constantly at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 infection and personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a recurrent subject of debate through the pandemic,” said Prof Elkington.

“The aim is to minimise the risk of infection for medical staff and the engineering team have rapidly developed something simple yet effective which can provide further protection and resolve some of the supply chain issues associated with disposable PPE.

“The HEPA filtered air removes more than 99.95% of particulate matter and the face mask protects from splashes and accidental touching, so we believe this will significantly reduce the risk of infection further."

Dr Derek Sandeman, chief medical officer at UHS, said: “This is a really exciting development and something we are very proud to be associated with. It highlights the level of expertise and innovation in the city and we have every confidence this will become a very important piece of healthcare equipment globally.

“While the currently-available standard PPE equipment provides high levels of protection for all staff when used appropriately and in line with infection control guidance, any development which could provide improve that protection is very welcome.”

Professor Hywel Morgan, of ECS at the University of Southampton, said: “This is an excellent example of industry, universities and hospitals combining their expertise and answering the call to develop healthcare solutions for staff and patients in this crisis.

“We are really grateful to our partners at McLaren, Kemp Sails and INDO on behalf of Baynhams for their commitment in working around the clock with us to getting this from a concept to a working prototype in a matter of days.”


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