Newton Abbot Hospital pilots new technology to help keep hospital a COVID free hub

Published: 18 May 2020

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust Associate Medical Director, Morven Leggott has been working with Professor Steve Goodhew from the University of Plymouth, to pilot using thermal imaging scanners (normally used in researching building sustainability), on patients and staff entering Newton Abbot Community Hospital.

Early in the COVID crisis it was identified that to maintain vital treatment regimes, some vulnerable patients would need to be moved from the acute hospital sites, and by doing this the vast majority of cancer patients in the Torbay and South Devon area have been able to continue some form of their treatment. The NHS is starting to re-introduce services that were stepped down to manage the response to COVID-19, and staff are working in new ways and introducing changes, to keep patients and staff safe.

Newton Abbot Community Hospital was earmarked to provide these services and, as with all NHS sites, introduced many changes to working practices to reduce the risk of infection. The latest of which is the introduction of thermal scanning for all patients and staff entering the building.

Other measures include:

  • changed access to the hospital to keep patient flows as separate as possible
  • reduction of footfall on the site
  • emphasis on ‘social distancing’
  • all staff in clinical / public areas wear face masks
  • regular testing of all staff on site
  • and from Friday 15th May, the introduction of thermal imaging screening of all patients and staff entering the hospital.

Miss Leggott, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust Associate Medical Director said: “As with all NHS sites, the Newton Abbot Hospital team wanted to keep their patients and staff as safe as possible and for patients to feel confident in our care.

“The first group of patients to transfer to Newton Abbot Community Hospital were cancer patients, both inpatients and those having outpatient treatment. We then extended the offer of space to other vulnerable patient groups (often shielded), or those where it was important that their treatment continued uninterrupted. We also felt it was vital to continue to be able to offer the minor injury unit service to the local population.”

Professor Goodhew and his team from the University of Plymouth are experts in sustainable building construction and architecture and have undertaken many national and European projects in this field. Usually measuring the sustainability of buildings, Steve Goodhew and Miss Leggott realised that the technology could be piloted as another level of defence in the fight against Covid-19 and are trialling it at the Newton Abbot site. The equipment being used has come from the Built Environment Research and CobBauge Research Project.

Professor Goodhew said: “The thermal imaging allows you to remotely measure the surface temperatures of objects, including people. It will alert if anyone presents with a scanned temperature outside of a ‘normal’ range. The university is very interested in the impact of thermal imaging upon people’s behaviour and will really benefit from knowing how the staff and patients at Newton Abbot hospital react to having thermal imaging throughout the three entrances of the building.”

“Offering assurance to our most vulnerable patients is of utmost importance and we hope that this thermal screening pilot will increase the confidence in those using our services” said Miss Leggott.


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