Partnership to develop solution to improve transfers of critically ill patients

Engineering design and manufacturing company, Illustrious Healthcare Solutions, has partnered with University Hospital Southampton (UHS) to develop an innovative Critical Care Transfer Stack (CCTS) that improves internal transfer of critically ill patients within acute healthcare environments.

The CCTS is a mobile frame which attaches onto a bed to support life-saving medical devices such as monitors, ventilators, O2 cylinders and accessories. These devices are mounted to the vertical aspect of the CCTS for visibility during patient transfer. The CCTS also safely transports cylinder holders, suction units, includes integrated storage areas and, crucially, has an integrated power supply unit.

There can be many risks when moving critically ill patients across specialised areas of a hospital. Having the right urgent care equipment that minimises those risks is paramount when transferring patients to critical care theatres and wards, as well as for transfer by outreach/resus teams. Research by the Intensive Care Society in 2019 found equipment failure as the most common adverse event during patient transfer.

Illustrious and UHS have developed a life-supporting product which remains robust within a high-stress environment while meeting the required complex specifications. It is also suitable for use with many different bed types in a hospital setting. The NHS uses multiple manufacturers for their supply of hospital beds, leading to great variation in terms of mounting positions. 

The two organisations collaborated in co-developing this improved product in 2021 after the Portsmouth-based engineering company had reached out to the hospital during the first wave of COVID-19, providing chart trolleys for intensive care units. 

The project has involved close collaboration between Illustrious engineers and hospital clinical engineering staff on all aspects of development. The product has been rigorously tested for effectiveness across the 35 theatres based at Southampton General Hospital, as well as in general, cardiac, paediatric and neuroscience intensive care units, and the emergency department, with extensive feedback contributing to final development. 

The CCTS has met with positive reviews from hospital staff across a wide range of professions and specialties, and has a medical device classification (Class 1). It is registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and is compliant with the European Medical Device Regulation (MDR). 

It has an integrated power supply unit with a medical grade isolation transformer developed specifically for the device. Meeting all regulatory standards, this all in one functional and safety solution was a key requirement for the hospital. Equipment supplied without this power source avoids electrical testing requirements and can lead to electrical retrofit being carried out by different internal departments.

The CCTS is also the only product of its type able to interface with different bed types as the brackets used for the unit are flexible and universal to all bed models. This allows it to cater for varying ramp gradients without damage when transferring in and out of theatre environments, as well as constrained lift sizes. 

Importantly, this device provides for standardisation of intrahospital patient transfer nationwide, allowing all staff to be familiar with the process as they move between NHS sites and other healthcare organisations.

Sean Folan is a Healthcare Scientist specialising in critical care for more than 15 years in an NHS regional trauma centre, and is also Co-Founder and Director of Illustrious Healthcare Solutions. He commented: “From the outset, UHS have shared their vast expertise with us and worked closely alongside our engineering design and development team. It has been a privilege to work with UHS and we are looking forward to sharing the benefits that this product brings with others.”

Simon Escott, Co-Founder of Illustrious, said, “Illustrious was founded to create outstanding healthcare solutions that would be invaluable to the sector, achieved by designing products and devices with the capability to be adapted according to need. This is exemplified by the Critical Care Transfer Stack and the IMPaCT Trolley. Our three-way partnership with UHS and Portsmouth Aviation brings together unrivalled experience in engineering innovation and healthcare expertise. This collaboration has the potential and capacity to achieve a huge impact within the healthcare industry going forward.”

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