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The University of Southampton

Developers of respirator for NHS frontline recognised in birthday honours

Published: 9 October 2020
Paul and Hywel
Profs Paul Elkington (left) and Hywel Morgan

Southampton Professors Paul Elkington and Hywel Morgan have been awarded MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to medicine and services to biomedical engineering respectively.

The awards are in recognition of their work to lead the development of new, reusable PPE in the form of a protective respirator, known as PeRSo, for healthcare staff tackling COVID-19 on the frontline.

As the country went into lockdown in March, Professors Elkington and Morgan brought together a collaboration of engineers from the University of Southampton, clinicians at University Hospital Southampton and industry partners including McLaren, Kemp Sails and INDO Lighting. In just one week, this partnership turned an idea into a prototype which was then tested on wards and manufactured at scale in less than a month.

The respirator now has HSE approval for use in healthcare during the pandemic.

Speaking of his award, Professor Elkington of the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton said: “I was completely taken aback when I opened the letter and I’m delighted to accept the award on behalf of everyone who has made PeRSo a reality.

“Although the original PeRSo can be deployed during this pandemic, the work doesn’t stop here. We are currently developing new versions that could be worn in a range of other work and care settings, and this award will be further motivation to progress that as rapidly as possible.”



The PeRSo purifies air by drawing it through a highly efficient filter, and then blows it via a tube into the wearer’s hood, which has a clear visor so the entire face is visible. It can be worn throughout a worker’s shift and could have a major role to play in achieving the Government’s latest PPE strategy, which includes an emphasis on reusable equipment, manufactured in the UK. 

Professor Morgan of the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences said: “It was heartening to be part of a team of academics, clinicians and engineers that came together in a time of adversity, all motivated to protect NHS staff so they could keep caring for patients suffering with COVID-19.

“The team worked round the clock in the early days of the pandemic; the final product would not have materialised without their efforts so this award is for them as well.”

The PeRSo concept was published immediately open-source and made available to other manufacturers and organisations around the world. Currently, the team are working on a compact lightweight version specifically designed to protect care-home residents and staff.

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