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28 June 2011 | PR 11/81

University expertise shapes tools for pre-hospital treatment

Research at Loughborough University is helping to equip paramedics with the specialist tools and vehicles needed to treat patients on the spot – and cut the number of people being taken to A&E.

Emergency departments across the country are full to capacity and patients often face a long wait to receive simple or routine treatment.  Department of Health research shows that up to 40 per cent of patients in A&E could have been treated elsewhere.

Fifteen years ago, ambulance staff tended to provide secondary care, and transport patients to hospital.

Today, a new breed of highly skilled paramedics called Emergency Care Practitioners (ECPs) are often first on the scene. In many cases, they are equipped with the skills to deliver treatment without taking patients to hospital.

Academics at Loughborough University’s Healthcare Ergonomics and Patient Safety Research Unit (HEPSU) are working to develop new portable technology to support this treatment.

They are working in collaboration with the University of the West of England, Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust and two manufacturers, the emergency product supplier, Openhouse Products Ltd, and the WAS Group, Europe's leading supplier of ambulances and security vehicles.

Based on detailed research into both the needs of patients and the operating practices of paramedics, Openhouse Products Ltd have produced Portable Pods - a series of specially designed packs, each carrying equipment suitable for administering treatment in the most common emergency cases. The packs range from suture kits and tissue glue for minor wounds, to nebulisers and oxygen for breathing difficulties.

The academics are also working with the ambulance supplier WAS to design ergonomically sophisticated ambulance interiors, based on clinical studies of the ways in which Emergency Care Practitioners work.

Experts in healthcare ergonomics at Loughborough University hope the practical application of their research will help make life easier for ECPs and paramedics.

HEPSU director Sue Hignett said it had a crucial role to play in updating the design of emergency care equipment, to bring it into line with changes in the way healthcare is administered.

The academics are now exploring other areas in which their research may benefit healthcare providers involved in urgent, pre-hospital assessment, such as nurses and out-of-hours GPs.

Dr Hignett added: “We have had a very positive response from the Emergency Care Practitioners taking part in the trials of the Portable Pods.

“Their input has helped to guide our work and we are now delighted to be maximising the impact of our research by transferring that knowledge back into society through industrial collaboration.’’


For all media enquiries contact:

Sarah Hall
Marketing and Communications Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228684
E: S.Hall@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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