Cost effective, efficient and fit for purpose are phrases that are often used when discussing what is required within our NHS. Staff that are better trained is one solution, but there is no denying the need for state of the art equipment that is capable of withstanding the rigors of the ward and operating theatres.
Often given the sheer volume of red tape, not to mention serious financial considerations, the NHS lags behind the private sector and is slow to take advantage of innovations that may save time and money as well as lives.
Surprisingly areas such motorsport and the military can offer solutions to our hospitals, whilst helping it to modernise.
Take fabric for example. We all depend on it and it is used daily, yet the quiet revolution that has been taking place right under our noses has largely escaped our notice.
We may know them best for the improvements they have made to our wardrobe but over the last half century there has been an explosion in fabric technology. First came the substances like Lycra®, with its unique elastin properties now widely in use as compression garments, then more recently we have fabrics like Coolmax® designed to ‘wick away’ moisture and allow the skin to breathe, thus supporting a more rapid recovery.
Necessity is the mother of invention and many of these technologies actually have their roots in sport as well as the military, where high stakes particularly in motorsports, make it critical to increase the performance of drivers by shaving tiny margins off lap times with a plethora of new technologies. In this world, technical textiles help to improve the comfort and response time of drivers as well as prevent serious injury, helping drivers to survive impact and resist injury from heat.
In the military many fabrics have to do double duty, particularly where resources are limited, or logistics make it difficult to transport materials in bulk. They need to be extremely hard wearing and designed with a specific climate in mind.
Things get really smart when these fabrics are teamed with a range of specialist finishes. Fire retardant, anti-bacterial and antimicrobial finishes can be applied with the aim of further enhancing healing or increasing safety properties.
Having been subjected to the most rigorous of testing, these products are now in use in our NHS. They may be more expensive than their predecessors, however to go backwards may be something of a false economy when you take into consideration their hardwearing nature and their ability to help people to heal more quickly and resist secondary infection, thus freeing up beds.
Steadily replacing out dated technologies with their modern counterparts is helping our hospitals become more efficient and effective.
By understanding the deep inner workings of a hospital and re-engineering the even the most mundane and basic aspects such as the need to regularly replace uniforms, significant cost savings can be made, the knock on effect of which can mean a greater throughput of patients, quicker recovery times and a cleaner hospital environment.
Hard wearing technical textiles may escape our notice, but are helping to make this a reality.