Minima Minima has designs on chairs

A PROTOTYPE for a new hospital porter's chair, developed by a company in Suffolk, was yesterday unveiled at the Design Council in London. The launch followed the success of Framlingham-based Minima Design in a national competition, “Design Bugs Out”, run by the Department of Health in partnership with the Design Council to seek design solutions to problems of infection control.

A PROTOTYPE for a new hospital porter's chair, developed by a company in Suffolk, was yesterday unveiled at the Design Council in London.

The launch followed the success of Framlingham-based Minima Design in a national competition, “Design Bugs Out”, run by the Department of Health in partnership with the Design Council to seek design solutions to problems of infection control.

Designers and manufacturers were encouraged to work in partnership to create ultra-hygienic hospital furniture and equipment, suitable for mass production.

The 12-strong team at Minima Design secured one of the five briefs, with the result being yesterday's launch of a new-style porter's chair which is easier to clean than the traditional version as well as being convenient for a wider range of users.

All the prototypes from the competition will be showcased at seven NHS hospitals around the UK, with the outcome expected to see the manufactured versions being used in hospitals by 2010.

Minima consulted a variety of experts including infection control nurses, porters, lifting and handling experts and other healthcare staff at hospitals in Ipswich and Great Yarmouth.

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Alastair Kingsland, design director at Minima, said: “The porter's chair posed a unique challenge as it travels all over the hospital - inside and out - and is subject to a high degree of wear and tear. It is used by porters, patients, nurses, and visitors so the design needed to incorporate a way of keeping the chair clean to help fight the spread of hospital acquired infections.

“Following extensive research on user touch-points, using coloured chalk on the hands of people acting as patients and porters in role-play, we mapped high contact areas and identified aspects of the chair that needed redesigning.

“The footrest, for example, showed up as an area handled by porters to deploy it so if this could be avoided then the spread of infection from patients' shoes could be immediately reduced. This was achieved and demonstrates just one way in which the new design limits the spread of infection.”

The chair's footrest rests on the floor but raises as the patients weight is applied to the seat, so there is no need for anyone to put hands where patients place their feet.

The surfaces of the chair are smooth and easy to clean and joins are positioned carefully to reduce the risk of trapping harmful bacteria. The design also uses light coloured materials which help show patients that it is clean, and antibacterial wipes fit into a holder on the chair, to encourage frequent cleaning.

The new design also incorporates storage space for gas bottles and patient documents and a flat base under the seat provides a storage area for the patients' belongings.

Vernacare, Minima's manufacturer partner for the competition, also consulted widely with hospitals in Bolton and Durham as well as its own advisory group of care practitioners.

Jane Kent, new product development manager at Vernacare, added: “The result is light years away from the original chair which has seen very little development for 30 to 40 years. It is an easy to use porter's chair with very few dirt traps that is quick and easy to clean.”

Paul Cryer, project manager for the Healthcare Associated Infection Technology Programme (HCAI), said yesterday: “Harnessing designer talent in the fight against healthcare associated infections is good news for patients and for staff.

“Items which are designed with infection prevention control in mind, such as this innovative Porter's chair by Minima Design, will be easier to clean and likely to be cleaned more often. We are grateful to Minima for helping us to design bugs out.”