Medical technology designers to face Dragons Den judges for £10,000 innovation prize

Medical technology designers are to pitch a new contoured support snood helping to improve the quality of lives of motor neurone disease sufferers whose neck muscles have weakened to a panel of Dragons’ Den style judges as part of a £10,000 innovation challenge.

A team of experts from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative have been singled out from hundreds of entries across the country to showcase the work as part of the NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes ‘Acorn Challenge’.

The NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes is being run by NHS England and aims to recognise and reward small ideas that have the potential to make a big difference to patients.

The Sheffield support snood is a lightweight neck collar that sits along the contours of the patient’s neck muscles, allowing patients’ freedom to move their neck.

The unique design – which has been tested on 26 patients suffering with motor neurone disease – could be used for patients suffering with other devastating neurological conditions, such as stroke and trauma, and makes everyday tasks such as eating and speaking easier for patients whose quality of life is already severely impaired by debilitating illnesses.

The Sheffield support snood has been designed and developed thanks to a collaboration between the NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield.

Nicola Heron, programme manager for the NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative, said: “The Sheffield support snood was created in response to patients living with motor neurone disease and other neurological conditions who told us existing neck collars provide insufficient support or completely immobilise the neck, negatively impacting on the quality of their life.

“Although we cannot stop the disease itself from worsening, the collar has the potential to make life more comfortable for patients already suffering with a debilitating illness by alleviating pain and discomfort caused by weakened neck muscles.

“We’re delighted that we’ve been given this fantastic opportunity to showcase the significant improvement in wellbeing our newly-designed collar offers. If successful we will use the prize money to manufacture a new batch of collars for patients with motor neurone disease, which can market in the UK and other big countries such as the USA. We are also keen to explore if the product can be used to support patients with other neurological conditions.”

The team will present in front of the Dragons’ Den NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes judges on Wednesday 3 December. The judging panel will consist of leading figures from the NHS, industry and third sector.

Winners will be announced on or after Thursday 8 January 2015.

To find out more about the NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes visit

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Clinicians hack into eight-hour challenge to help patients

A team of clinicians, medical engineers, designers and patient representatives were challenged to come up with new innovative concepts to solve patients’ needs in an eight-hour health design hack.

Members of the nationally acclaimed Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative set two challenges at the University of Sheffield’s fifth annual Business Innovation Network conference.

These are a project to create better systems for lifting patients safely and more comfortably who are unable to support their own weight and a sip straw for patients who have difficulty in swallowing from a beaker or cup following a stroke, or suffer with Parkinson’s Disease, motor neurone disease, or multiple sclerosis.

Read more here

D4D End of Pilot Report 2008-2013

The National Institute for Health Research Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative (D4D) has achieved much in its first five years. This booklet is a celebration of our work and successes, focussing on real examples of how we have collaboratively developed new technologies and treatments, and helped pave the way for the HTCs of today and tomorrow

Click here to download your copy

Devices for Dignity to attend the 2014 European MedTech Forum

Devices for Dignity is attending the 2014 European MedTech Forum. The largest health and medical technology industry conference in Europe, this year the Forum is revolving around the theme of “More needs. Higher expectations. Smaller budgets. Can the European MedTech Industry deliver?“.

Organised by MedTech Europe’s alliance members Eucomed and EDMA, the seventh edition of the MedTech Forum will take place on 15-17 October 2014 at the Dolce La Hulpe, Brussels. Last year the conference brought together more than 500 participants active in the EU healthcare scene, including policymakers, scientific communities, patients’ representatives, healthcare professionals, academics and representatives of the global medtech industry.

Motivating women to care for their pelvic floor health

NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC (D4D), in collaboration with the Bladder and Bowel Foundation, has produced a new video to motivate women and teenage girls to look after their pelvic health.

“We wanted to create a video that explains the importance of the pelvic floor muscle exercises,” said Nicola Heron, programme manager at D4D. “Most teenagers aren’t aware of their pelvic floor. It’s unusual for young women to have pelvic floor problems but being aware of the pelvic floor can help them keep it in shape and avoid problems when they are older.” 

Devices for Dignity recognises outstanding achievement at Medilink UK awards

The finest of the UK’s Life Sciences and Healthcare Technology sector have been honoured at the 2014 Medilink UK Healthcare Business Awards.

This year’s coveted National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative (HTC) Outstanding Achievement Award was awarded to Moor Instruments.

Moor Instruments is a market leader in providing laser Doppler imaging system for tissue blood flow assessment. Over the past decade, they have advanced laser Doppler imaging technology from a purely research tool in to a dedicated medical device for burn assessments in clinical settings.

The Medilink UK Awards, this year held at the Med-Tech Innovation Expo, at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, is an annual event that celebrates cutting edge technologies, outstanding business achievements and international successes across the UK’s Life Sciences sector.

Winners from five categories – Start-up, Innovation, Partnership with the NHS, Export Achievement and Outstanding Achievement – were honoured at the prestigious event.

The Awards was hosted at the end of the first day of the exhibition, as part of the Medical Device Manufacturing Conference, with leading professionals from the Life Sciences sector, UK government, research institutes and overseas organisations in attendance.

Gary Stapleton, Medilink UK’s new Chairman and Business Director of 3M Health Care Business Group, West Europe, said: “We are proud to celebrate the considerable achievements of companies who have continued to push the boundaries of healthcare innovation for the benefit of business, healthcare systems and most importantly the patient.

“I would like to extend a massive congratulations to all of our winners and shortlisted companies. Their achievements should give us great encouragement for the future of our industry.”

The nominees for the awards were derived from the regional awards which were selected by Medilink’s network across the UK.

Winner of the Nabarro LLP Start-up Award was Derbyshire-based FLi Medical Innovations, for its novel piece of surgical equipment which assists surgeons in an approach for Total Hip Replacement, known as the ‘Direct Anterior Approach’. Independent assessments have indicated an annual saving to the NHS of over £300m if this technology is widely adopted.

Crewe-based Medtrade Products Limited won this year’s  HGF Innovation Award for its unique Celox Rapid Gauze – a new haemostatic bandage used in traumatic injuries. The gauze stops the most severe bleeding after only 60 seconds of pressure and takes around 30 seconds to pack into a deep wound. It is designed for emergency services such as ambulance paramedics as well as police forces and military medics.

The UK Trade & Investment Export Achievement Award was awarded to Halifax-based Sidhil. Sidhil is a volume manufacturer of beds for acute and community applications. Continued investment has seen the company branch out successfully into the export market with a number of major contract wins.

The Medilink UK Partnership with the NHS Award was awarded to Zilico Ltd. Zilico is developing the next generation of diagnostics that utilise electrical impedance spectroscopy to provide accurate and real-time results. Its flagship product, ZedScanI, is in the area of cervical cancer diagnostics and received its CE mark in September 2013.

High-dependency kids wheelchair in spotlight at IET Awards

A high-dependency paediatric wheelchair was a finalist at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Awards 2013.

The Chair 4 Life, an adaptable wheelchair for children with high dependency needs competed against other leading medical innovations in the Healthcare Technologies category at the awards in London.

One of the key features of the Chair 4 Life is a vertical lift which allows the children eye-to-eye interaction with their peers, which improves dignity and independence.

The chair was built by design specialists Renfrew Group International, who won a National Innovation Centre competition to develop the idea based on feedback from children with high-dependency needs.

One of the key things which makes the Chair 4 Life unique is that it can be easily updated and modified through a series of attachments and components, which reduces the need to renew the entire wheelchair as the child grows, reducing clinic time and costs.

The National Institute for Health Research Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative (NIHR D4D HTC) was a partner in the first phase of the Chair 4 Life project.

The aim of the project was to build a chair which would incorporate the most complex equipment needs such as ventilators and oxygen cylinders, but allow children to leave hospital and be able to get out and about safely, confidently and more independently.

NIHR D4D HTC collected thoughts and ideas about design and functionality from children with high dependency needs through a series of workshops which put the children’s requirements at the forefront of the chair design. These workshops were arranged with Frazer-Nash Consultancy and hosted by the disabled children’s’ charity Whizz-Kidz.

Nicola Heron, Programme Manager of NIHR D4D HTC, said: “I’m really proud that an innovation which NIHR D4D HTC played such a key part in creating has been recognised. Children who are confined to a chair need to be able to feel dignified and independent and the Chair 4 Life gives them this.”

The IET awards were held at The Brewery, London.

To find out more visit

D4D present at EPRSC Partnership Awards

Devices for Dignity (D4D) has participated in a workshop in London for potential applicants of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) NIHR Healthcare Technology Co-operatives Partnership Awards.

The workshop was held for potential applicants to network and explore the work of the eight HTCs in more detail, and to ask questions about the application and assessment process.

Dr Wendy Tindale and Dr Nicola Heron attended the event in London on behalf of D4D to present on the remit of D4D. Click here for D4D’s presentation.

Visit here for more information about the awards.

NIHR showcases the clinical research that could bring hope to the nation’s dementia sufferers

To mark the start of World Alzheimer’s Month, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is showcasing some of the cutting-edge clinical research that could bring new hope to dementia patients and their families.

Launched in 2006 by the Department of Health, the National Institute for Health Research invests in all aspects of clinical research across England, so that patients have the opportunity to take part in suitable studies, and evidence can be gathered to keep improving treatments for NHS patients.

Over the past two years, the National Institute for Health Research has put millions of pounds of extra investment into supporting clinical research into dementia, which affects 800,000 people in the UK – a figure that is expected to rise to one million people by 2021.

Now, as part of World Alzheimer’s Month, the National Institute for Health Research has launched Aimed at the general public, the online showcase highlights some of the pioneering work supported by the NIHR, which could lead to better treatments for dementia sufferers, and improvements in the quality of life for those with the condition.

For example, the showcase reveals how, with support from the NIHR, researchers in Cambridge are investigating new gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, to help patients to gain better control over the slow, stiff movement that is a feature of the disease.

The showcase also features the work of researchers in London, who are using NIHR investment to investigate how tele-care and other home support can help dementia sufferers to stay independent and live in their own homes for longer.

Visitors to the showcase site can also read how the NIHR is also supporting research into a “magic bullet”, to help “repair” the brain, and prevent people with Parkinson’s disease developing dementia.

Speaking about the launch of the online showcase, Dr Jonathan Sheffield from the NIHR said:

“The number of dementia and neurodegenerative disease studies we have delivered in the NHS has increased by 40 per cent over the last two years, and this is a growing area of clinical research. So, with World Alzheimer’s Month about to start, we wanted to take this opportunity to give people an insight into the trailblazing work that is going on behind the scenes to tackle this major problem for our society.”

The National Institute for Health Research’s showcase, , includes case studies and interviews with leading researchers, patient views on living with dementia, and advice on finding out about current clinical trials.

For further press information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Leicia Feare,, 0113 343 0321

Tracy Gregg,, 0113 343 6570

Notes to editors: About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research.

Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has:

  • Increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public
  • driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy
  • developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research.

The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research.

Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world.

For further information, visit the NIHR website

Facts about dementia

  • Dementia describes different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function. These conditions are all usually progressive and eventually severe
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting 62 per cent of those diagnosed
  • Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, confusion and problems with speech and understanding. Dementia is a terminal condition
  • There are 800,000 people with dementia in the UK with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2021. This will soar to 1.7 million by 2050
  • One in three people over 65 will die with dementia
  • Dementia costs the UK over £23 billion a year, and this figure will rise to £27 billion per annum by 2018
  • There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia. Delaying the onset of dementia by five years would halve the number of deaths from the condition, saving 30,000 lives a year.

Innovative new collar to end MND patients’ neck distress

A revolutionary new device to replace ‘hated’ neck support collars for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) patients has been developed.

Imagine being unable to support your own head, unable to speak properly or eat without assistance. That is the reality for patients with MND; enabling the continuation of the most basic aspects of living such as being able to maintain eye contact with other people can dramatically improve quality of life.

Moya Briggs, 67, who was diagnosed with the less aggressive form of MND four years ago, chose to take part in a unique patient-led project, called ‘Head-Up’ to create a more suitable collar for patients with MND.

Moya said: “I hate the current collar I have to wear, absolutely hate it. When I’m wearing it I feel like an Egyptian mummy, all choked around my neck. For it to give me enough support I’ve got to have it really tight and when it’s tight I feel like I’m choking in it. It makes me feel as if I’m only partly communicating with the world.

“I hate the look of my current collar too and I cover it with a scarf. The fact that this new collar is inconspicuous and comfortable will make all the difference.”

The award-winning ‘Head-Up’ project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme. It is a collaboration between Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. The team was brought together and provided with early funding by the NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative (D4D HTC).

The collar came from a complete rethinking of existing collars as it sits low on the patient’s neck and offers support along the contours of the neck muscles, making it much easier for patients to carry out everyday tasks such as eating and communicating. The new collar will be undergoing a comprehensive evaluation later this year.

The involvement of patients and the public in research has been strongly promoted by NIHR, and is at the heart of D4D’s culture. Moya and other MND patients have played an extensive part in the design workshops for the new collar.

She said: “The whole device is very inconspicuous and provides so much more support. The snood itself feels like a second skin. It was wonderful for me because the muscles at the back of my neck usually feel the strain but I could instantly feel the relief in my neck.”

“I think it’s going to be a great relief to a lot of people. Every time I go out I will be wearing it and I need it for when I’m on the computer or if I’ve got to sit at the table or do anything for a long period of time.”

D4D, which is hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, brought together an extensive multidisciplinary team including designers and engineers from Sheffield Hallam University’s Lab4Living, clinicians, clinical neurologists, MND nurse specialists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and medical engineering experts from the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Barnsley Hospital.

This group was supported by MND patients and carers through the Motor Neurone Disease Association. D4D is also leading the regulatory compliance, evaluation and commercialisation work to put the collar as quickly and effectively as possible into the hands of patients.

Moya said: “I think the role that initiatives such as the NIHR D4D HTC play is very important. They can add an extra dimension – bringing forward products which integrate modern materials and help make people feel more part of the community and less obviously disabled.”

The project was led by Dr Christopher McDermott, who is a Consultant Neurologist and a Co-Director at the Sheffield MND care centre and also supported by the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).