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With the New Hospital Building Programme underway, and fresh leadership in the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care, we need to look at how innovation can help tackle the greatest challenges the health service faces. There is also a welcome renewed focus on sustainability and driving efficiencies across hospital estates, meaning there has never been a better time to consider what the future of water delivery should look like in the NHS.
Water delivery sits at the heart of safe, effective and sustainable healthcare. The introduction of digital solutions can transform water management and deliver improved outcomes for patients, healthcare professionals and the health service. Rada’s digital solutions have been on the frontline of infection prevention in the NHS throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, reducing the risk of healthcare-associated infections, cross-contamination and promoting good hand hygiene.
Prioritising innovation for water delivery solutions brings many advantages for the NHS. It can help prevent infection, support the NHS to reach its sustainability target by 2025 and reduce both financial and workforce pressures across hospital estates.
Prioritising safety and infection prevention
Decision-makers within the NHS have challenging roles with competing priorities. They must demonstrate value for money while also ensuring that estates are safe environments for patients, healthcare professionals and staff. By investing in high-quality, innovative washroom control solutions, decision makers can prioritise patient safety and enhance outcomes whilst also managing resources efficiently.
Healthcare associated infections are a considerable concern across healthcare settings, with 6% of patients treated in NHS hospitals will acquiring a healthcare associated infection (HCAI) 1. Infection control procedures and policies are incredibly important for reducing these wholly unavoidable deaths, but the current approach is time and resource intensive. Covid-19 has placed ever greater demands on staff and facilities, meaning healthcare professionals need every tool available to them to prevent outbreaks of water and airborne diseases within hospitals.
Solenoid valves have been identified as being one of the main sources of microbial growth across water systems in healthcare settings. Intelligent Care’s design and engineering mean that the risk of Legionella and other water-borne viruses is minimised. The water contact areas are also 95% brass or copper, which strengthens resistance to microbial growth and cross infection. The monitoring functions within the Intelligent Care system allow abnormalities to be immediately identified and remedial action taken quickly and safely, minimising the risk of infection.
By removing touchpoints from the handwashing process, Rada Intelligent Care contactless taps are a more hygienic alternative that reduce the spread of viruses that can cause health problems. By collecting key data on usage patterns, smart solutions provide infection control leads, facilities and estates managers with insights that make water management more efficient and provide better cost-certainty. Research found that hospitals with automated hand-hygiene monitoring systems were found to have an advantage during the pandemic 2. They were also able to gather robust hand hygiene data with minimal investment of personnel time.
Intelligent Care solutions also prevent scalding, which is listed as a ‘Never Event’ - a serious incident that is wholly preventable 3 as the water is delivered at a safe temperature removing the risk of ‘hot-shots’. Ensuring temperature is also pre-set at the correct temperature for handwashing meets NICE recommendations.
By driving the same innovation seen in other areas of clinical practice to water management, we can come together to reduce infections, keeping patients, healthcare professionals and staff safe. The pandemic has highlighted just how important this is.
Driving efficiency and sustainability
Rada solutions are crucial for NHS hospitals looking to take a coordinated and action-orientated approach to sustainability. We support our partners in the NHS to deliver on sustainability targets and ensure the delivery of year-on-year reductions in water consumption.
The NHS is one of the largest organisations in the world, with over 1.3 million direct staff. It is also one of the UK’s largest consumers of water, using approximately 50 billion cubic litres of water a year, at an annual cost of £60 million 2. With hospital staff using ten times more water than a typical office worker, sustainable use of water in the NHS has a vital role to play in meeting the UK’s climate change targets.
The Greener NHS plan rightly identified significant opportunities for emission reductions in primary and secondary estates through better management of water use. NHS stakeholders that we engage with have also told us how much they are prioritising sustainability in response to these plans. Intelligent Care specific tools in place that support greater monitoring of water usage and minimise water wastage. We are proud to partner with stakeholders in the NHS to help them learn, innovate and embed sustainable developments in their approach to water delivery.
It was also acknowledged in the plan for digital transformation in the NHS that ‘digitising the estate and smart hospitals, will ensure the NHS meets its targets for delivering a net-zero NHS’. Rada’s solutions support this as the automation of data logging and compliance making it easier for stakeholders to complete Annual Sustainability Reporting. This helps to ensure operational efficiencies can be achieved, as duty-flushing is also automated, meaning staff time can be spent on driving resource efficiency elsewhere.
There is also a huge environmental gain with pre-programming temperature and run-times to optimum length, minimising water wastage through over-use. Significant water savings can also be realised as the taps only run when hands are placed underneath.
Rada's water delivery controls are at the forefront of the future of sustainable hospital design, directly supporting the digitisation of NHS facilities and estates. Rada applies the same innovative spirit seen across patient care to water delivery, solving real world problems and driving efficiencies and boosting sustainability.
Designing the Future Hospital
With new investment being channelled into NHS hospitals through the New Hospital Building Programme, we need to ensure that these new buildings are fit for the future and deliver the best value for money.
Health Minister, Edward Argar MP recently wrote that ‘investment in our NHS buildings will transform health services for millions of people for decades to come, by putting world-class patient care, staff wellbeing and sustainability first’ 5 - Rada helps make that a reality.
The NHS has acknowledged that ‘technology will play a central role in realising the Long-Term Plan (LTP)’. Therefore, as the Government looks to invest in new hospitals and retrofit existing hospitals to promote patient, economic and environmental outcomes, decision-makers should use every tool available to them to meet the LTP ambitions.
Rada has worked with hospitals across the country to upgrade and future-proof facilities against the spread of Covid-19 and other infections, installing our new Intelligent Care range of taps, which minimises the risk of infection through non-touch controls, thermal disinfection and automated duty flushing 6.
Intelligent Care solutions use digital technology to solve real world problems. For example, they make compliance easier for facilities managers by removing the need for manual duty flushing, recording and logging – which is time and resource intensive. By automating duty flushing processes, greater efficiencies are achieved, and the risk of human error removed. This also generates sustainability efficiencies as the taps can be networked to ensure that only taps that have not been used as flushed, reducing water wastage and supporting hospital trusts to meet the NHS’s ambitions for sustainably delivered healthcare.
The intuitive no-touch control of water flow and temperature also encourages users to comply with hand hygiene procedures, supporting the health and well-being of patients through smart design. Making forward-thinking decisions on facilities within the health service will make life better for patients, visitors and staff, save time and money, and reduce the impact on the environment to the benefit of us all.
Our greatest strength is our passionate, knowledgeable and experienced team who are always ready to go the extra mile to drive safe and sustainable water use in the NHS. Our team take pride in understanding the needs of the customers and can provide full life cycle support for all of our products. Unlike other manufacturers, we ensure that spares are available for 10 years after a product is discontinued – meaning spare components can be easily sourced and rapidly dispatched, reducing the need to re-fit new systems and reducing the financial burden of products, and increasing return on investment.
Rada has supported critical facilities across the country in the fight against Covid-19, specifying and installing our industry-leading Rada Safetherm, a thermostatic clinical tap that improves bacterial control and user safety. Rada Safetherm, was selected, specified and installed for use in the NHS Nightingale Hospitals. The taps were chosen both for their performance and Rada’s ability to respond to deadlines and deliver components to site in response to the NHS’s need to help guard against the spread of Covid-19 .
We are proud to adapt and evolve with our customers, ensuring our products meet the latest industry standards and guidance, ready for installation in any setting. We stand ready to help the NHS build hospitals that are future proof, meeting its ambitions to have a greener NHS.
With the demand on health systems only set to increase in the coming years, innovative and sustainable water delivery solutions should be at the forefront of the future of hospital design and our collective approach to the delivery of healthcare in the years ahead.
James Feindt, Marck Aghnatios and Alistair Fleming look at the opportunities of migrating care from hospital to the home environment, as well as the challenges it creates