A Liverpool city region healthcare tech firm could save the NHS up to £247m a year through prevention of needlestick injuries and cutting down single-use plastic. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool city region healthcare technology firm NeedleSmart could save the NHS £247m a year if its needle disposal technology is rolled out across the country following a pilot programme.
Knowsley-based NeedleSmart has developed a system, called NS PRO, for safely disposing of needles after they have been used by clinical staff. The COVID-19 vaccination programme alone has seen the NHS deliver 134m injections.
Until now, the main method of disposing of a used needle has been via a plastic sharps box, which carries a limit on how many intact needles could be disposed of. NeedleSmart’s technology reduces the used metal syringe into a tiny cold ball. This greatly increases the capacity of the sharps boxes which comprise single-use plastic.
NeedleSmart is collaborating with the NHS, facilitated through the NHS Supply Chain innovation route, to trial its technology at a number of NHS Trusts, including Alder Hey in Liverpool, with a view to full rollout across the NHS.
It also forms part of a programme to reduce, or even eradicate, the 100,000 needlestick injuries (NSI) suffered by NHS workers every year. This costs trusts an estimated £127m each year.
And, as of April 1, and as part of the Government’s recycling policies, all plastic packaging must contain 30% recycled material or be subject to a levy of £200 per tonne. The reduction in single-use plastic thanks to NS PRO offers a further potential saving of £120m a year. That makes a total of £247m.
NeedleSmart chief executive Cliff Kirby said: “By adopting the NS PRO device, the NHS will enjoy a whole host of efficiencies in cost-savings and reduction in carbon emissions, in addition to crucial safety aspects.
“Using the NS PRO for the safe disposal of hypodermic needles can radically reduce the 100,000 needlestick injuries that occur each year to surgeons, doctors, clinical staff and hospital porters.
“But the even greater capability for reducing carbon emissions lies in the fact that using the technology means we can reduce the carbon emissions that the NHS produces by 95%.”
NS PRO destroys a contaminated hypodermic needle in a sealed chamber in just six seconds. The NeedleSmart device heats the needles inserted into the chamber to 1,300 degrees celsius, which will kill potential harmful pathogens, viruses and bacteria adhering to the needle.
Within seconds, the needle is compressed into a tiny cold ball and released from the NS PRO device as a safe sphere of metal at the tip of the syringe. This not only safely destroys the needles, converting them into safe clinical waste and allowing for recycling, but also hugely decreases the amount and level of clinical waste disposal.
It allows the clinical waste to be split into two parts, with the molten metal ball part of the clinical waste recycled as safe waste and the plastics recycled into the system. This represents a huge advancement for the NHS – which is one of the UK’s biggest producers of carbon – in reducing its carbon emissions and recycling its clinical waste.
Claire Liddy, managing director of Innovation at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, added: “At Alder Hey, we have been innovating for the past 100 years. We want to ensure that we are always standing at the leading edge of clinical innovation, sustainability and the green tech space.
“The technology presents lots of opportunities for us to also reduce waste and carbon ,which is a huge agenda for the NHS and Alder Hey as part of the NHS Carbon Reduction programme. We really want to be a hospital that is pioneering in the space of green tech.”