Bolton-based medical products manufacturer Vernacare has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the innovation category for developing a detergent-proof disposable washbowl that is helping to lead the fight against hospital ’superbugs’.
The product is claimed to be the world’s first single-use pulp washbowl that is capable of holding both warm water and detergent, and avoids the infection risk of reusing traditional plastic bowls.
Since its launch in 2007, the patented product has been adopted by more than a third of NHS hospitals, as well as by hospitals in 12 other countries, with eight million bowls sold last year.
The washbowl is one of 150 million pulp products made each year by Vernacare in Bolton from 100 per cent-recycled newsprint (without using bleach or dye). After use, healthcare staff place the products in a macerator waste-disposal machine also designed and made by Vernacare. The pulp then disintegrates into biodegradable fragments that wash away with the cold wastewater.
The Vernacare washbowl provides a time-saving, hygienic and environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional process of chemically disinfecting, washing and drying plastic washbowls at high temperatures and the problem of disposing of plastic, which is almost impossible to biodegrade.
The introduction of the washbowl made it financially viable for Vernacare to invest £1.5m in automating its inspection and packing facilities in Bolton.
The washbowl was developed in response to demand from infection prevention nurses in the UK who identified that reusing plastic washbowls was an infection risk. Vernacare’s own research and development and production teams spent two years creating the detergent-resistant pulp formulation, working with the company’s clinical advisory group and NHS nurses to develop and perfect the product.
The four-litre washbowl is used for hand washing, general surface cleaning, wound care, shaving, continence care and general patient care.