THE Welsh Ambulance Service is a finalist in the Innovation, Science and Technology category at the St David Awards 2021 for its research and work into the rapid sanitisation of emergency ambulances during the Covid-19 pandemic in partnership with the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).
Jonathan Turnbull-Ross, Assistant Director of Quality Governance at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “At the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, less was known about the virus, including how to effectively sanitise environments which had been exposed to it.
“Whilst sanitisation and decontamination products were available, testing of their efficacy, specifically against Covid-19 was not widely established.
“It takes additional time to decontaminate an ambulance that had transported a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patient, taking precious resources away from the frontline temporarily while the vehicle is made safe for the next patient.”
To help find a solution, the Welsh Ambulance Service and SBRI issued a special ‘rapid’ challenge to the business community of Wales via sell2wales to come up with an innovative method of faster sanitisation.
Typically, a SBRI bid can take around a year to complete but this new rapid process slimmed it down to an incredible six weeks.
Jonathan said: “We received more than 200 applications in a week. The most promising of which were invited to the Ministry of Defence’s Science and Technology Laboratory in Porton Down, Wiltshire, to thoroughly assess and evaluate their usability.
“As a result, several solutions were further trialled in-house and we have moved forward to implement a solution.”
Lynda Jones, Manager of the SBRI Centre of Excellence in Wrexham, said of the collaborative project: “Before the pandemic hit, we had been doing some work with WAST on unmet needs and the cleaning of ambulances.
“But when Covid-19 began to take hold, SBRI struck up the conversation with WAST again and the idea of a fast-track bid process was born.
“We were delighted to get the support of Welsh Government and the Ministry of Defence also for their expertise.
“This nomination is a real team effort with up to 70 people involved from across the NHS, Government and Ministry of Defence.
“It has been a real pleasure to help protect people on the frontline and to use the SBRI process when people need it most.”
The St David Awards are the national awards for Wales and cover the eight categories Bravery, Community Spirit, Critical Worker, Culture, Sport, Innovation, Science & Technology, Humanitarian, Young Person and the First Minister’s Special Award.
Those shortlisted are all nominated by the public and the eventual winners are selected by Mark Drakeford, the First Minister.
Jonathan said: “This was the first ‘rapid’ SBRI project in the UK and showcases Wales’ aptitude for innovation and partnership working.
“The Trust is honoured to have been nominated and shortlisted in the St David Awards.
“It underlines the significant efforts of our staff in undertaking such an ambitious project.
“We are grateful to the SBRI Centre of Excellence and the Ministry of Defence in partnering with us, and for the support of Welsh Government innovation teams to make this collaborative project successful.”
The First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “This year’s St David Awards finalists are an inspiring group of people that we are lucky to have living and working in Wales. The past year has been incredibly challenging for many of us.
“The coronavirus pandemic has brought much sadness and heartbreak – but it has also brought out the best in many people. This group of people from across the whole of Wales, are a true inspiration to us all.”
Hosted by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, the SBRI Centre of Excellence brings together the healthcare sector and businesses across the UK to work together to solve challenges facing the NHS.
Currently, the Centre of Excellence is running two rapid challenges to help tackle problems brought up by Covid-19.
The team is currently working on a challenge to develop clear FFP3 respirator masks to help staff with communication challenges. Another challenge is bringing businesses and communities together to come up with creative solutions to improve environments.
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