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Irisys infection reduction test gains medical ethical approval

Posted by Richard Strange on Oct 14, 2011 4:39:00 PM

London (Oct. 14, 2011) – Medical ethical approval has been granted to a test programme designed to cut healthcare-associated infections across the NHS. Testing is now under way at a London NHS Trust. NHS figures show that about nine per cent of patients actually acquire infections during a hospital stay. This costs the Health Service around £1billion annually – money that could be saved by something as simple as regular hand washing.

News of the approval comes on the eve of Global Handwashing Day, an international initiative endorsed by a wide array of governments and international institutions.

As part of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme awarded a two year contract to British infrared specialist, Irisys, to develop sensors to drive improvement in compliance with hospital handwashing regulations.

Together with associated communication and reporting systems, the result should be a groundbreaking automatic monitoring and alerting system that will be affordable and non-intrusive. Initially designed for the NHS, the system will subsequently be applicable to all healthcare providers, and to other industries such as food processing.

The impact of pathogens such as MRSA and C-difficile on the NHS first came to prominence in the 1990s. Many people carry these bugs with no effect on their day-to-day health. But in a hospital environment, the situation becomes potentially life-threatening.

Hand cleansing is a key way to cut infection rates. To reduce the possibility of passing infection between individuals, any person having contact with patients should wash their hands thoroughly...
• when they first enter a patient area
• before and after touching a patient
• before leaving an area or moving to another patient after touching anything else

The Irisys solution is called the Intelligent Handwashing Monitor (IHM). The system looks at the behaviour of personnel in the hospital environment so that handwashing compliance is improved in line with established procedures. The infrared system monitors movement in and out of a specific area; and the number of times each handwash unit is used. Compliance rates are then calculated, displayed locally and reported.

The IHM project complements the Irisys existing programme in Assisted Living, where the company is developing infrared sensing products and systems that can help to monitor elderly and disabled people and others at risk of injury, without intruding on their privacy. It represents another significant step by Irisys into the healthcare market.

Data source: The Management and Control of Hospital Acquired Infection in Acute NHS Trusts in England: National Audit Office report, 17 February 2000

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) - also known as nosocomial or iatrogenic infections - occur in about 9% of in- patients, which amounts to at least 100,000 infections a year and 5,000 deaths. These infections may be costing taxpayers as much as £1,000m every year.


About the National Institute for Health Research

The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients.


About SBRI

This contract will be managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Suppliers were selected by an open competition process (October 2008), as part of the reformed Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) in the area of Healthcare Associated Infections. This competition was managed through the NIHR Invention for Innovation programme. The SBRI initiative is championed by the Technology Strategy Board. More information can be found at

About Irisys
Irisys is a UK innovator in award-winning technologies that make a significant, measurable impact on business efficiency and contribute to improving the quality of people’s lives.

Irisys is a high technology manufacturing success story, exporting British technology all over the world, and regularly featuring in the Sunday Times Tech Track list of fastest growing technology companies. The company invests a double-digit percentage of revenues in R&D and holds over 70 patents. One in six employees has a PhD.

Irisys is the global leader in people counting technologies and real time queue management solutions. Its infrared thermal imaging solutions are used by some of the world’s leading retailers, banks and airports to boost customer service, operational efficiency and profitability. Irisys pioneered the introduction of low cost thermal imaging cameras for industrial applications and its security technologies are predicted to transform the intruder detection market. Irisys’ ongoing investment in healthcare solutions aims to make hospitals safer and cleaner, and improve home monitoring for the elderly and infirm.

Irisys doubled its revenues in 2010, both by changing the landscape of established markets and by creating entirely new areas of demand.


About Global Handwashing Day (GHD)

Global Handwashing is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies, and individuals.

Handwashing is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. Together, they are responsible for the majority of all child deaths. Yet, despite its lifesaving potential, handwashing with soap is seldom practiced and difficult to promote.

Turning handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into an ingrained habit could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter. A vast change in handwashing behavior is critical to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.

For more information on handwashing with soap, including research, tools, and news visit