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Innovative PPE protecting frontline staff

Researchers at Southampton rapidly designed protective personal hoods at the start of the pandemic. Widespread hospital use was swiftly approved and the equipment is now largely preferred by patients and staff to standard facemasks.

Key facts
  • As the country went into lockdown, BRC investigator Professor Paul Elkington took the initiative on finding better PPE for his clinical colleagues

  • The resulting award-winning PeRSo respirator hood frees frontline staff from the discomfort and limitations of single use face masks, providing protection and peace of mind for their entire shift

  • Widespread use led to relatively low staff absence in Southampton during the second wave of the pandemic


Developing a respirator hood

The COVID-19 pandemic created a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly facemasks. This combined with the discomfort and maximum one-hour of continuous use of these masks, created extra pressures for frontline teams.

Experiencing these challenges first-hand, BRC investigator Professor Paul Elkington and his engineering colleague Professor Hywel Morgan took initial sketches for a simple, cost-effective respirator hood to a working prototype in just one week.

The respirators have a waist-mounted rechargeable battery powered unit, which filters air extremely effectively and then blows clean air into a loose-fitting hood with a clear visor.

BRC support and expertise enabled rapid clinical evaluation onwards. The prototype was driven into production in under a month by a collaboration of engineers from the University of Southampton, clinicians at University Hospital Southampton and industry partners including McLaren, Kemp Sails and INDO Lighting.

Delivery on the frontline

Through use of commonly available, low-cost materials and components and immediate open-source publishing of the design, Professors Elkington and Morgan aimed at maximum uptake by manufacturers and organisations worldwide, to help clinical colleagues globally.

The PeRSo hoods were rapidly deployed at University Hospital Southampton, with manufacturing partner INDO producing two models.

Over 1,500 PeRSos were used in Southampton during the first wave. A further 3,500 were then used during the second wave, all individually requested by staff.

In summer 2020 the PeRSo team received a President’s Special Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) for Pandemic Service for exceptional engineering achievements in tackling COVID-19 throughout the UK.

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