Protective personal respirator hoods developed in Southampton have received UK approval for use beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PeRSo hood is now certified for all use as PPE by the British Standard Institute.
Researchers at Southampton rapidly designed the personal respirator at the start of the pandemic. Widespread hospital use was swiftly approved and thousands have been used since across the UK.
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, NIHR Southampton 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 prototype was driven into production in under a month.
By January 2021, over 10,000 respirators had been provided to NHS Trusts from the south of England to Scotland after it received approval for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new certification means it is now an approved method of PPE for all use.
Professor Elkington said: “We are delighted that PeRSos have now been fully approved for use beyond the current pandemic. During the second wave, over 3,500 University Hospital Southampton (UHS) staff used a PeRSo, leading to lower staff absence than other hospitals. This showed the benefit of highly effective reusable PPE.
“This approval means we will be prepared for any future variant or respiratory pandemic. It is all due to the highly effective collaboration between the hospital, university and local industry underpinned by the BRC.”
Effective, sustainable and cost-effective
The respirators have a waist-mounted rechargeable battery powered unit. This filters air before blowing it into a hood with a clear visor.
A recent study, published in Frontiers in Medical Technology, recommended the hoods as an effective, sustainable and cost-effective form of PPE.
It found staff preferred the PeRSo hoods to standard facemasks. They reported feeling safer and more comfortable. Patients also preferred the hoods as they could see their carers’ faces, making communication much easier.
Further analysis showed widespread PeRSo use to be cost-saving after only ten weeks. As they are reusable, the hoods are better for the environment. They were also not affected by supply chain issues like disposable facemasks.