A Dulwich College Sixth Form student has helped create a COVID-19 secure screen for ear nose and throat doctors to use during medical examinations – allowing thousands of on-hold procedures to safely go ahead.
The innovation is now helping routine and planned appointments get back on track across London. Eighteen-year-old Sam, who finished the Sixth Form this year, was going into school helping make visors and face masks in the school’s design and technology department when Plamen Donev, an ear nose and throat consultant from the NHS’ Communitas Clinics contacted the school. He asked if its design and technology department could help develop an idea for a specialist screen that would enable nasendoscopy procedures to go ahead.
A nasendoscopy is a test that looks at the inside of the nose, throat and larynx using a tiny camera. None of these operations had gone ahead since March due to the risks of COVID-19 transmission from sneezing.
Mr Donev provided some simple sketches for what he had in mind – a protective screen with in-built gloves – and after speaking with the school, year thirteen student Sam Williams was put forward to create a prototype. After proving successful, and meeting regulatory requirements, the screens are now being rolled out across London.
“I had been really nervous about going back to work because, as we all now know, medical staff are disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” the consultant said.
“I’m going to be a grandfather soon which gave me an additional level of anxiety.
“When I saw the screen made up with the modifications, I quickly realised that this piece of kit would make me feel safer and considerably reduce the risk of infection.
“I couldn’t have got better results if I’d gone to a professional design business.”
He added that the company has a major backlog of thousands of the procedures that had been scheduled since March. It is hoped that the clinics will be able to perform 350 procedures per month across south-east London using the screen.
Meanwhile, Sam is taking a gap year and hopes to get an apprenticeship with a construction firm.
Describing the design process, Sam said: “The initial drawings and ideas were good. I made alterations to the designs and created a 1:5 scale model using the school’s facilities and materials.
“There were many challenges; the screen had to be able to be kept really clean so there couldn’t be bolts or crevices, there had to be smooth surfaces everywhere and everything had to be easy to sanitise.
“For my A level project, I made a fire pit so this was at the opposite end of the cleanliness scale!”