NHS competition honours sleep apnoea and diabetic solutions

Cambridge-based Trillian’s service to test for the sleep disorder and McCallan Medical’s VibraTip technology for use on diabetics were acknowledged last week in the Smart Solutions for Healthcare competition.

The competition, run by TrusTECH, the North West NHS Innovation Hub, was set up to find better, more cost-effective approaches to diagnosis and treatment for patients with long-term conditions and cardiovascular disease.

Dr Bryan Griffiths of TrusTECH said: ‘The NHS faces a monumental challenge in the years ahead and new technologies and services will be required to help change the way care is delivered.’

Trillian’s sleep apnoea solution is claimed to take £500 off the cost of diagnosing the condition.

Currently, patients must be referred to a hospital sleep centre for diagnosis at a cost of around £750. The Trillian service reportedly allows them to be diagnosed in their own homes for £250, through the use an electronic monitoring device.

According to a statement, patients collect the device from a GP’s surgery and are shown how to use it. They attach it before bedtime, leave it on overnight and return it to the surgery the next day. The surgery staff then upload the recorded data to the company’s server. It is then analysed by a consultant who sends back a report to the GP.

VibraTip, by McCallan Medical of Nottingham, uses vibration to test for nerve damage in the feet — a common problem for diabetic patients and one that can lead to foot ulcers.

Unlike tuning forks, which are currently used, the VibraTip provides a consistent source of vibration so results are more reliable. The device, which is the size of a key fob and costs around £6, is small and inexpensive enough for nurses or patients to keep in their pockets.

Other winning entrants were iGrading CVD software from Liverpool’s Medalytix and PADD from Loughborough’s Dialog Devices.

iGrading assesses people’s risk of heart disease based on an image of the back of the patient’s eye, which then undergoes computer analysis while PADD detects blocked arteries in the leg by using infrared light to assess blood volume changes in the foot before and after raising the leg.

All four will now undergo evaluations at hospitals and GP surgeries in the north west.

‘The winners provide rapid and simple ways to diagnose long-term conditions within the community, instead of having to refer patients to hospital,’ said Griffiths. ‘Not only do they provide significant savings on the initial testing costs, but allowing earlier diagnosis gives scope for more effective treatment and prevention. This, in turn, ensures better outcomes for patients and savings on longer-term care.’