My Dignity Means: A Patient-led Event

On 2 June 2015 Devices for Dignity held ‘My Dignity Means: A Patient-led Event‘. The day was the culmination of months of working closely with patients to build an event that gave people with long-term conditions (and their carers) the opportunity to tell the NHS and industry about their lived experiences, and their priorities for future product development. The event’s programme was based upon the 655 responses to the Independence and Dignity Survey that we conducted from February to May 2015. Since the event we’ve been busy following up on the priorities that attendees identified for us.

On 2 December we released a report on our Independence and Dignity Survey findings, the priorities identified at the event, and what we’ve been doing in the 6 months since our Patient-led Event. The report has been shared directly with attendees and survey responders, and is also available to download, here, from 2 December 2015. You can also download the survey for reference here.

Journal dedicates edition to ground-breaking work of NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC

A medical engineering and technology journal has dedicated a full edition to the work of a team that develops innovative technology solutions to support people with long-term conditions.

NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative, which is hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), has had 12 articles published in the Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology.

It features case studies and examples of NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC’s work, and academic discussions of the projects. There is a focus on ‘empathic engineering,’ meaning technologies that have been designed to meet the needs of people with long-term conditions, and that enable them to live with dignity.

Dr Nicola Heron, Programme Manager for NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC, said: “The editor contacted us because they were very interested in what we do and thought our work would be valuable to a wider audience.

“To be approached is recognition that we are doing something unique and interesting. It was a great opportunity for us to be able to collaborate with our partners to pull together our work and present it in depth.”

The ‘Head Up’ project is among those highlighted in the journal. NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC worked collaboratively with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) patients and others to develop a revolutionary collar that supports the patient’s head and neck, which helps with everyday tasks such as eating and communicating.

Dr Heron said: “We are particularly proud of this because it shows what Devices for Dignity is all about. It has taken years of hard work to address an unmet need for patients, and it is now almost ready to go on the market.”

Other articles cover topics such as technology innovations for patients with kidney disease, functional electrical stimulation for tetraplegic patients, communication aids, and robot assisted rehabilitation.

NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC brings together inventors, clinical and healthcare staff, industry, academics, charities, the public, patients and carers to develop solutions to areas of unmet clinical and patient need. You can find out more about what NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC do on the website, www.devicesfordignity.org.uk.

The special edition of the Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology can be accessed at www.tandfonline.com/toc/ijmt20/39/7. Selected articles will be free to access without subscription for a limited time.

Read about our activities in our 2014-15 Annual Report

Now available to download – our Annual Report for 2014/15, including information about how we work, who we work with, how we can help other organisations, and what we’ve achieved during 2014/15.

You can download the report here or click the report cover image on the left.

Renal Technologies Theme Lead Dr Elizabeth Lindley appointed to the Medical Advisory Board of Quanta Fluid Solutions Ltd

Commenting on her appointment, Dr Elizabeth Lindley said: “The renal team at Devices for Dignity has supported Quanta’s innovative ideas and vision of a truly patient-centred machine since the initial concept of the SC+. Now the device has been realised, I hope that it will soon be helping to increase independence and quality of life for haemodialysis patients.”

Download the full press release here.

Communication Toolbox wins Digital Award

One of our projects, ICUApp, led by Barnsley NHS Foundation Trust’s Assistive Technology team, has won an award. ICUApp is a ‘Communication Toolbox’ app which is being developed to help people communicate when in intensive care. The project team won the award in the Digital Health category of the Medipex NHS Innovation Awards. The app was developed with Imperial College, the Royal College of Art in London and NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC.


Patients in ITU are often intubated (have a breathing tube) at some point during their stay, leaving them temporarily unable to speak. As medicine and technology advances, patients are sedated at a lesser lever than previously, making patients more aware of their experience of ITU and yet unable to effectively communicate.

The 2015 Medipex Innovation Awards focused on applications that are cost effective, creative, promote safe healthcare, prevent premature deaths, enhance the lives of people with long term conditions or can make a contribution to economic growth.

Simon Judge, Senior Clinical Scientist at Barnsley Hospital said: “We are extremely proud to have won the Medipex Innovation award; this is a huge achievement for the team.”

“Improved communication will ultimately lead to better care and the improved wellbeing of patients. It will enhance the quality of care that our patients receive by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of care.”

The Medipex NHS Innovation Awards were held on 8 October at Oulton Hall in Leeds. Barnsley Hospital’s Assistive Technology team were presented with a cheque and trophy. TV presenter and NHS Paediatrician, Dr Ranj Singh presented the awards and the Digital Health category was hosted by Synergix Health.

Patients share views to help clinicians, researchers and industry develop new products to improve patients’ lives

PATIENTS living with long-term conditions such as kidney disease and stroke have told researchers, clinicians, charities and industry partners what it is like to live with their condition and how it can have an impact on their quality of life, dignity and independence.

During a patient-led event, organised by the NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative (D4D HTC), patients highlighted the realities of living with disabilities and illnesses on a long-term basis. These included everyday problems such as feeling isolated and a reduced ability to perform simple everyday tasks, from eating and drinking difficulties to struggling to open medications or get around.

The event gave patients the opportunity to tell the NHS and industry what their healthcare product priorities should be. The information will be used to help shape future plans for new technologies that can improve patients’ lives. D4D is one of eight specialist Health Technology Centres making positive healthcare changes in partnership with industry. D4D specialises in empowering people with long-term conditions and disabilities to live more dignified and independent lives through the development of new healthcare products and technologies. It is hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Nicola Heron, Programme Director for D4D, said: “This was the first time we’ve held an event like this, and it was great to see almost 100 members of the public, health organisations, charities and industry come together to look at ways in which we can creatively come up with technological-based solutions that could really make.

David Coyle, Renal Patient Lead with D4D, was instrumental in making this event happen, alongside patient advocate and stroke survivor Kate Allatt. David, a survivor of kidney failure, kidney transplant, cancer, and lung disease, said: “When we think about long-term conditions we tend to think about the initial impact on people’s lives, but what’s not often spoken about is how people manage day in, day out with conditions such as kidney disease, which often entail frequent trips to the hospital for treatment and considerable adjustments to everyday routines that lead people feeling vulnerable and no longer themselves.”

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Stories shared at the event included that of Sheffield-born Kate Allatt, a mother-of-three who ’awoke in her own coffin’ after suffering a stroke which left her with locked-in syndrome. The terrifying condition left her unable to move any part of her body. Although she was considered unconscious, she wasn’t, and felt stripped of all her dignity and ‘trapped inside her body’. During the event Kate started the discussions around devices by introducing some ideas that could have helped her when she was at her most vulnerable, such as a device to help her control painful bladder spasms, and a communication board where she could select ‘End of word’ whilst spelling words out.

My Dignity Means: A Patient-led Event took place in Sheffield on 2 June 2015.

Read about our activities in our 2013-14 Annual Report

Our Annual Report covering April 2013 to March 2014 is now available. We have achieved much during the year and are pleased to present a range of activities and active projects from each of our HTC’s Themes, as well as an introduction to how NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC operates.

2013-2014_report_cover

You can download the report here or click the report cover image.

High-tech language assessment points way to better future for disabled children

Technology first of its kind to incorporate eye gaze tracking, mouse pointers and switch scanning options into one package so that speech and language therapists can use these methods to accurately record a child’s receptive language level.

A NEW high tech computer-based speech and language assessment tool helping professionals accurately record the levels of understanding of children who have a physical disability could improve the outcomes of thousands of non-verbal children.

The Computerised Accessible Receptive Language Assessment (CARLA) software has been designed in response to an audit which identified that speech and language therapists found it difficult to get an accurate picture of a child’s receptive language using current tests if the child had a physical disability and couldn’t speak or point to pictures to show what they could understand.

The technology has been developed by the NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative (D4D), a specialist centre based in Sheffield, and Barnsley Hospital’s Assistive Technology team in partnership with Jabbla, a Belgian technology company. D4D is hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and empowers patients to live more dignified, independent lives.

Incorporating eye gaze tracking, mouse pointers and switch scanning options, the software is the first assessment of its kind to combine all these features into a single software package so that speech and language therapists can use these methods to accurately record a child’s receptive language level.

Children with physical disability often use these methods for other computer programmes so by integrating these options into CARLA , the software aims to reduce the barriers these children face when being assessed. Estimates show that up to 6,200 children and young people in England need communication aids to make choices and create messages using pictures, symbols, words or letters that can be linked to an electronic voice.

According to the Office of the Communication Champion, providing an appropriate communication aid can save over £500K in a child’s lifetime, as well as enabling them to receive appropriate educational provision.

Simon Judge, joint communication aid project lead for D4D and senior clinical scientist from Barnsley Hospital’s Assistive Technology Team said: “We’re delighted to be launching this new assessment. Up until now, when a child cannot point to their answers, speech and language assessment tools have relied on the therapist’s interpretation of the child’s responses, but this system gives an objective record of these responses as the child can make their choices using eye gaze, head switches or mouse pointers.

“As a result of having a more accurate picture of these children’s ability to understand language, the software will make it easier for speech and language therapists to target their therapy at an appropriate level. This could make a significant difference in terms of their educational outcomes and ensuring the appropriate language support is put into place.”

The software, which has been designed for children with a physical disability, also has the potential to help children with sensory or attention difficulties and adults with communication disabilities such as those with learning difficulties, dementia or aphasia.

Currently speech and language therapists use a variety of published assessments in order to determine the comprehension of spoken language of children with physical disability. These assessments traditionally use drawings which the child points to in order to make a selection.

When a child can not point to the pictures because of a physical disability, therapists normally adapt them by adapting the pictures or layout, by using alternative pictures or objects or by trying to match what they see the child do in their natural environment to levels on the assessment. The adaptations made generally invalidate any standardised scores given by the assessment.

Physically disabled children may be unable to point to their answer and therefore the assessor often has to observe the child’s movements, body language or eye signals and interpret their responses. Clearly this is subjective and open to human error, so CARLA aims to provide objective results and reduce the need for human interpretation. Inaccurate results may mean some children are believed to understand parts of language, such as vocabulary, cognitive and linguistic concepts, when in fact they do not.

Alternatively the reverse may occur where the children may understand more than they have ever been able to demonstrate. These results may impact on the level of their educational work, their language therapy programme, their communication aid use and the expectations of those around them.

The software will initially be available for use by speech and language therapists and teachers.

For more information about the new Computerised Accessible Receptive Language Assessment (CARLA) visit http://www.techcess.co.uk/.

Image: A screenshot from the Computerised Accessible Receptive Language Assessment (CARLA) software.

Two million for innovative solutions to help tackle kidney disease

SIX winners, announced today, will receive a share of over £2 million as part of a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition aimed at developing cutting-edge technology solutions to help kidney patients.

The innovative competition is funded by the Department of Health and managed by the National Institute for Health Research Healthcare Technology Co-operative Devices for Dignity (D4D), and will give small businesses the opportunity to develop ideas and technologies that could prevent kidney disease, allow earlier diagnosis, and give patients with kidney failure greater independence, enabling treatment closer to home.

They will also play a key role in reducing the significant burden of treatments that individuals living with severe kidney disease often endure.

Over the next 12-24 months the six winners will develop solutions to address some of the most pressing issues in kidney care. These include prevention of acute kidney injury, a condition that is estimated to affect 4.9% of hospital patients and in severe cases can be associated with a 10-20% chance of death within one year.

Another team’s focus will be on the early identification of peritoneal infections, the commonest cause for hospitalisation of patients on peritoneal dialysis. Peritoneal dialysis is a technique used for patients with severe kidney disease that uses the patient’s own body tissues inside the abdominal cavity as a filter.

The significant ‘patient transport’ burden experienced by kidney dialysis patients will also be addressed with a radical new approach to delivering patient transport for kidney disease patients and the development of a new type of diagnostic and monitoring test allowing patients to manage their condition at home. This will enable kidney patients to be further supported and seen in the community, reducing the number of hospital visits required.

The development of a novel self-help web-based solution will also help patients better manage their condition and adhere to their medicines. The final team will develop a method of making transplantation with blood group incompatible donors more accessible.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said: “Competitions such as this help the development of cutting-edge technologies which will make a real difference to NHS kidney patients. The UK is fast becoming the world leader in 21st century bio-medicine and life science, driving innovation and supporting small businesses to grow.”

D4D Clinical Director Professor Wendy Tindale OBE said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Department of Health to capitalise on the fantastic ideas and energy of the UK’s small business industry to devise and develop practical products and solutions that could make a real difference to the lives of thousands of kidney disease sufferers.

“D4D is specialist national centre, hosted in Sheffield and funded by the National Institute for Health Research, with a remit to empower patients with long-term illnesses to live more dignified and independent lives through the development of user-friendly technologies. We have used our extensive networks with the kidney community to ensure the competition addressed the needs of patients by seeking input from patients, clinicians, academics and industry.”

David Coyle, home haemodialysis patient and D4D renal patient lead said: “The quality of the ideas that are being developed is very impressive. It is particularly notable that the teams have engaged with patients at an early stage and this has significantly influenced the final design outcomes. I am confident that these new innovations will deliver real benefits to patients in the near future”.

The six winners are:

  • Patientrack, Somerset – automated information technology system to calculate the risk of acute kidney injury and to detect and alert clinical teams of acute kidney injury in patients so that they can quickly ensure the right team are providing the right care for these patients
  • 365 Response, Wakefield – a booking app for patient transport, a key factor for delays in haemodialysis treatment, haemodialysis, a medical procedure to remove fluid and waste products from the blood when the patient’s kidneys are no longer able to do so
  • Microsensor Ltd, Manchester is developing a point of care safety monitor to improve infection control for peritoneal dialysis patients (an alternative to haemodialysis)
  • IF Sensing Ltd, Manchester – a device allowing monitoring of kidney function at home using interstitial fluid rather than in hospital
  • NIRI, Leeds – a system to remove antibodies for patients due to have blood group incompatible transplants which can be used simultaneously with haemodialysis, reducing treatment time and time spent in hospital
  • Atlantis Healthcare, London – an online support programme using health-psychology based coping exercises to improve self-management in order to delay disease progression