Rolls-Royce: protecting the NHS

  • April 10, 2020

In just under a week, a team from Rolls-Royce working with medics and engineers at The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in the UK have developed, tested and put into operation a shield to protect front line staff from frequent exposure to aerosolised COVID-19. The fast-make prototype activities were supported with funding from Innovate UK.

The shield has been designed to allow doctors to introduce and remove COVID-19 patient ventilation tubes (an operation known as intubation and extubation) with visibility and line of sight access. This is for use when they are near the patient, whilst providing the added protection of an additional fixed barrier.

Andy York, Rolls-Royce Head of Programmes, said: “This started from a discussion with my friend Dr Ian Renfrew, Consultant Interventional Radiologist at BARTS on the challenge that he and his colleagues in the NHS are facing and how we could help. I am incredibly proud of how we have all come together to deliver a specialist protective shield for the NHS at this unprecedented time.” 

The wider team of MTC, medics and Rolls-Royce worked within the current health restrictions and guidelines to develop five iterative prototype variations, collaborating with medics from hospitals in London (Royal London, Northwick Park) Bristol Southmead, Coventry, and Princess of Wales, Bridgend. We have tested the operation of several units with anaesthetists present and with patient consent have used a shield for a non-COVID-19 related procedure.

Alan Pardoe, Rolls-Royce MTC Partnership Manager, said: “Over two days we’d developed and built our first prototype. Dr Ian Renfrew and colleagues then worked with us to try out the shield and we then set about revisions to improve its operational effectiveness. Working over the rest of the weekend on several iterations, we finalised, built and delivered the first operational MK4 intubation shield to The Royal London, Barts Hospital Trust in just six days.” 

Dr Clive Hickman, MTC Chief Executive, said: "The acrylic shields with access panels for medical staff are manufactured as complete units or can be produced as a flat-pack self-assembly kit. The shield has undergone several design changes during its rapid development following trials. Feedback from medical professionals suggests that the shields can be used during the intubation and extubation processes and may also be useful for other medical procedures beyond COVID-19 treatment."

Neil Mantle, Rolls-Royce Director Manufacturing Technology, added: “The team have been working at full speed motivated by the demand from anaesthetists and hospitals across the UK. We have transformed an important idea into manufacture in such a short space of time and I would like to thank all my colleagues.”

The MTC is now preparing to manufacture the first batch of 1,000 units and the team is working with the manufacturing supply chain to ramp up immediate capacity to at least 200 units a day to meet expected NHS demand.

For those able to manufacture their own Intubation Shields and especially for those outside of the UK, the designs are available open source on the MTC website