Antimicrobial Copper

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

A state-of-the-art centre being constructed at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital is due to set the gold standard for infection prevention with Antimicrobial Copper door furniture specified throughout in a bid to reduce the risk of healthcare associated infections in particularly vulnerable patients.

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is one of the UK's most common life-threatening inherited diseases, affecting some 8,500 children, teenagers and young adults.  Hospital treatment is complex and lengthy and, whilst in hospital, patients are isolated from family and friends and removed from their normal lives.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa chest infections are of particular concern as the organism has been shown to be transmissible between people with CF, so it was important that the new facility be designed with premiere infection prevention measures firmly in mind.

With the new facility, it was the hope of Dr Frank Edenborough, Consultant at the Sheffield Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre, and the Cystic Fibrosis team that they could create an environment to meet both the clinical and personal needs of patients.  They helped design a ward that would combine those key infection prevention measures with a comfortable and appealing environment that aims to mitigate the boredom of sometimes very prolonged stays.

Dr Edenborough explains the role copper will play: "In a bid to set the gold standard for infection prevention in CF, we felt that copper could make an important contribution towards minimising surface contamination from hands or coughing, killing potentially dangerous pathogens in between cleans and augmenting rigorous hygiene protocols. It is our hope that, in this way, copper will help reduce the risk of infections."

Architect Rebecca Haverty of Race Cottam Associates, the practice assigned the task of designing the cutting-edge Centre, was also enthusiastic about Antimicrobial Copper's potential to kill germs and fit in with the modern, elegant theme of their designs.

"Common materials such as plastics may look clean, but they have no inherent antimicrobial efficacy," she says.  "Antimicrobial Copper can help to fight infection, so we were very keen to use it.  It seems almost too good to be true and yet it's proven to work.  The range of alloys available means any project can gain from the benefits of copper.  We chose to use an almost pure copper to make a statement, but a nickel silver finish would look good too."

Instinct Hardware, the company supplying the Antimicrobial Copper components, have seen the demand for such products rise steeply in recent months as more infection control professionals are becoming aware of its potential for their facilities.

"The increased interest in copper coincides with Instinct's progressive research and development into antimicrobial products," says Nilesh Chohan, Works Manager at Instinct Hardware.  "It is proven as the most effective antimicrobial touch surface material, whilst being completely recyclable, thus complying with the sustainable demands of today. These factors have led to the addition of a copper range that is in keeping with the Instinct philosophy for providing reliable, superior quality products, where integrity of the material is a critical factor."

Recognising copper's beauty as well as its antimicrobial properties, a piece of copper artwork has been commissioned for the clinic, which will greet patients, staff and visitors when they enter.  The artwork is by prominent London-based metal smith Adaesi Ukairo, who has a long-standing love of working with copper and its alloys, such as brass and bronze.

From the innovative and contemporary room designs to the Antimicrobial Copper touch surface components and the vibrant, welcoming copper artwork, it is hoped by those working on the project that the new unit will not only provide a safe and hygienic environment for patients to be treated, but also one that will feel more comfortable and inviting for long-term stays than existing facilities, setting a gold standard for infection prevention and revolutionising Cystic Fibrosis care.

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