Healthcare worker washing their hands with water

Fit for the Future? The role of safe and sustainable water delivery in tomorrow’s NHS

Following NHS Providers’ cautionary report on capital investment in the NHS Estate and the impact of deteriorating infrastructure on the provision of patient care, Alex Hyslop, Associate Marketing Director at Kohler Mira Ltd discusses the importance of investing in new digital technologies in water systems to ensure that NHS infrastructure is fit for the healthcare challenges of tomorrow.  

Earlier this month, NHS Providers, the membership organisation for NHS acute care, published its latest report 'No more sticking plasters: repairing and transforming the NHS estate'. The organisation was frank in its assessment of both the lack of capital investment across NHS estates and the potential impacts on patient care. Warning that under-investment risks deterioration of NHS infrastructure, NHS Providers' Chief Executive Sir Julian Hartley commented: “This is…about ensuring patients have the safe, timely, high-quality care they deserve…where staff can work efficiently and effectively.” [1]

This assessment could not have come at a timelier moment. Here at
Rada, the commercial division of Kohler Mira, driving innovation in water controls to keep users safe, prevent waterborne infections and conserve resources is at the core of our work and we are proud that Rada taps and water controls are installed in hospitals across the UK. We are passionate about helping reduce the pressures facing the NHS and deliver better patient care. We support the report’s key findings on the importance of digital investment for transforming services and driving the NHS's ambition to become the world's first Net Zero national health system.

In recent months, we have seen multiple reports of tragic and avoidable loss of life, departmental closures and damage to facilities in hospitals across the country. Each one lays bare the impact that unsound water infrastructure can have on patient care. Put simply, those at greatest risk of severe illness, or even death, from unsafe water are likely to be found in NHS estates. Pathogens which cause bacterial or viral illnesses can thrive on internal and external surfaces, such as pipes and taps. It is therefore vital that water systems play a supporting role in providing safe patient care.

We believe that digitised water delivery technology is at the heart of driving safety, infection control and sustainability improvements. Rada’s latest
Intelligent Care digital tap has been designed and engineered through our direct engagement with frontline staff, estates and infection control teams to specifically address these challenges.

NHS Providers’ report highlights that “digital investment remains a vital enabler to transform delivery, enable full interoperability, improve productivity and reduce the costs of service provision.” We know the pressures that NHS staff are under, and digital water controls can play a key role in enhancing patient safety and infection control with greater precision, while reducing pressures on staff resources.

Intelligent Care allows facility teams to digitally set water temperatures, protecting staff, patients and visitors alike from the danger of scalding – categorised as a ‘never event’ by NHS England. [2] The risk of cross contamination of bacteria between users is reduced through non-touch controls, whilst the interior mechanics of the tap have been engineered to minimise the proliferation of biofilm and bacterial growth, all supporting infection prevention protocols. Our unique digital valve supports automated duty-flushing – essential for compliance with health and safety guidance, and the taps can be integrated with existing building management systems to allow centralised monitoring and control, reducing the burden on staff and allowing resources to be allocated to other areas of care.  

Delivering safe and sustainable water is not just about fixing the here and now. It is inextricably tied to Net Zero healthcare moving forward.
Delivering a Net Zero NHS plans target water and energy efficiency as key areas in which we can drive forward the sustainability agenda and achieve net zero. [3] In the UK, healthcare facilities are significant water users, accounting for around 40 billion litres of water usage per year.[4] Duty-flushing supports hospitals in preventing the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms and is a legal requirement to ensure safe healthcare environments. However, it is labour intensive and accounts for a substantial proportion of total water usage. The latest digital technology can automatically capture usage data from taps enabling facilities and estates teams to program smart duty-flushing to only flush individual taps when required. This provides significant savings in water and energy usage as well as staff time.

Water safety and the drive to Net Zero are at risk of becoming casualties of a lack of capital investment in the health service. We care deeply about the difference that automation, remote monitoring capabilities and digital precision can make to the vitality of estates and patient outcomes. We are committed to supporting the NHS to provide the safest possible experience for all patients, achieve Net Zero healthcare and deliver operational efficiency in NHS estates. I look forward to working closely with the New Hospitals Programme to drive the latest innovative technology in digital water infrastructure in the NHS estate.

[1] https://nhsproviders.org/news-blogs/news/patient-safety-at-risk-as-nhs-capital-budget-fails-to-keep-up-with-demand

[2] https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2018-Never-Events-List-updated-February-2021.pdf

[3] https://www.england.nhs.uk/greenernhs/a-net-zero-nhs/

[4] https://healthbusinessuk.net/features/shine-light

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