Wireless/patient protocol

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A TECH firm aiming to lighten the workload of nursing staff – while leading the fight against deadly sepsis – will be among the first tenants of the Liverpool Life Sciences Accelerator.

Oxfordshire-based Sensium Healthcare has developed a wearable wireless patch that records inpatients’ vital signs – heart-rate, breathing and temperature – by sending data every two minutes to a network of ‘bridges’ linked to a hospital IT system.

Staff currently spend several minutes taking measurements from each patient at regular intervals of at most four hours, which Sensium says adds up to about 90,000 hours in England alone (or the equivalent of 21,000 nurses doing nothing but full-time observations).

However, the patch allows the condition of patients to be monitored from nursing stations and can act as an early-warning system by alerting medical staff of any signs of deterioration.

“We have picked up episodes where the patient has begun to become unwell that we otherwise wouldn’t have done at such an early stage,” says David Jayne, professor of surgery at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

It’s hoped the patches can help to fight sepsis, which kills an estimated 37,000 Britons each year.

Contributed image showing a nurse applying a Sensium patch to a male patient

Known as the ‘silent killer’, the condition can be hard to recognise. Those with a serious illness, who have suffered wounds or are recovering from surgery are particularly susceptible. Triggered by infection, it causes the body’s immune system to go into overdrive and can lead to organ failure. However, campaigners say better treatment could save as many as 12,500 lives.

Sensium’s UK sales manager Ruth Bakerson-Lowe says: “We are currently working in partnership with a number of hospitals in the UK, gathering the necessary information to advance Sensium in becoming part of routine clinical practice.”

Becoming a tenant at the £25m accelerator, opening this summer, paves the way for further trials at the Royal Liverpool Hospital and will see the company rubbing shoulders with academics and clinical experts.

“The key thing is the relationship between Sensium and the trust, working with people who can help us to develop the product and create a system which is valuable for the NHS, staff within the NHS and patients and relatives who use the services of the NHS,” said Bakerson-Lowe.

The networking opportunities are already evident. While in talks over the Accelerator move, Sensium was put in touch with Aimes Grid Services which provides secure data services.

Accelerator director Dr Steve Powell recalls: “Within two minutes of them meeting, it was over my head and I didn’t understand what was going on but they were shaking hands and planning next steps so I knew something good was happening.”

Sensium’s patches might take on extra importance when the Royal’s staff and patients move into a £335m building next year.

The new hospital’s single rooms – 646 of them across 23 wards – promise extra comfort and privacy for patients but can present a headache for nursing staff tasked with monitoring their condition.

“Experience elsewhere shows that 100% side room hospital designs can be associated with higher patient risk, particularly if the nursing and other staff presence isn’t enhanced to compensate for this,” according to Gary Masterson, critical care consultant at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

However, he believes the patches can offer a cost-effective answer to the problem.

“With Sensium Vitals installed, the New Royal can be the safest hospital in the UK in which patients can enjoy privacy and safety together,” Masterson adds.

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