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Hospital first to widely use new respirator hoods to protect Covid-19 medics

University Hospital Southampton has ordered 5,000 of the new equipment which has an integrated air filter.

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The prototype was created in less than a week by the University of Southampton and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre before being tested and manufactured at scale in less than a month (Ric Gillams/PA)

The prototype was created in less than a week by the University of Southampton and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre before being tested and manufactured at scale in less than a month (Ric Gillams/PA)

The prototype was created in less than a week by the University of Southampton and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre before being tested and manufactured at scale in less than a month (Ric Gillams/PA)

Frontline staff at University Hospital Southampton have become the first in the country to be widely kitted out with a pioneering respirator hood when treating Covid-19 patients.

The PeRSo device consists of a fabric hood with a plastic visor to protect the face and delivers clean air through a High Efficiency Particulate Air (Hepa) filter using a fan mounted on the wearer’s belt.

It has been developed from a prototype created in less than a week by the University of Southampton and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre before being tested and manufactured at scale in less than a month.

The researchers worked alongside F1 team McLaren and industry experts including INDO and Kemp Sails to come up with the design, which is now available as open-source to be manufactured around the world.

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.

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The prototype of a personal respirator developed by the University of Southampton for frontline healthcare staff tackling the Covid-19 pandemic (Ric Gillams/PA)

The prototype of a personal respirator developed by the University of Southampton for frontline healthcare staff tackling the Covid-19 pandemic (Ric Gillams/PA)

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The prototype of a personal respirator developed by the University of Southampton for frontline healthcare staff tackling the Covid-19 pandemic (Ric Gillams/PA)

Professor Paul Elkington, a consultant and professor in respiratory medicine in Southampton who initiated the project, said: “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.

“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, which has ordered 5,000 PeRSo units, said: “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 improve that protection is very welcome.”

PA