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Engineering interventions’ contribution highlighted

IHEEM was among the professional engineering bodies to contribute to a ‘Rapid Review of engineering factors that will influence the spread of COVID-19 in hospital environments’ earlier this year, the results of which were unveiled in June by the RAE.

IHEEM was among the professional engineering bodies to contribute to a ‘Rapid Review of engineering factors that will influence the spread of COVID-19 in hospital environments’ earlier this year, the results of which the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) – which led the initiative – published on 3 June. Focusing on the impact on infection transmission of everything from hospital ventilation and plumbing systems, to the materials used in healthcare settings, and room and equipment decontamination technologies, the Review drew on engineers’ expertise and insights. It recognised that, alongside healthcare personnel, human factors experts, statisticians, and epidemiologists, engineers and engineering ‘interventions’ can play a significant part in helping to reduce the spread of hospital-onset COVID-19. HEJ editor, Jonathan Baillie, reports.

In an article published on pages 24-26 of the July 2020 ‘online only’ issue of Health Estate Journal, Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CBE, HonFIHEEM, the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Chief Executive, pointed out that that with large numbers of infected patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak, and healthcare workers exposed to high viral loads, there was a significant risk of viral transmission within such settings. While the primary control strategy had been to rigorously follow Government infection prevention and control guidance, it was recognised that engineering considerations – from the layout and condition of hospital plumbing and drainage systems, and the materials used in clinical areas, to the various decontamination technologies now available – could also markedly affect the extent to which the virus spreads in healthcare settings 

Although acknowledging that the Review was ‘not meant to be comprehensive’, the RAE, which coordinated it through the National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC), dubbed it ‘part of the engineering community’s input to government to inform the ongoing development of advice and policies’. One of the striking features of the inputs gathered, Dr Sillem explained, had been ‘the complexity of the challenge of hospital-onset COVID-19, and the wide variety of ways in which engineers could inform the approaches being adopted’. For the Review, the engineering profession was consulted ‘to understand the role of engineered systems to support the risk mitigation’. This process identified potential engineering solutions to limit hospital onset infection, outlining those already in operation in many hospitals (both in the UK and internationally), ‘near-term innovations’ that could support the COVID-19 challenge’, and ‘longer-term considerations’. Where not already in use, the Rapid Review suggested that these ‘should be considered to be additional to specified hospital cleaning protocols, not as an alternative’.

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NEC, Birmingham
25th - 27th April 2023

Facilities Show

ExCeL London
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Access the latest issue of Health Estate Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Health Estate Journal app from your device's App store

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