A children's hospital helps design lip-reading transparent mask
· Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and award-winning South Yorkshire manufacturer Bluetree Medical have launched a new medical grade transparent mask that significantly and safely improves communication with young patients
· The BrillianSeeTM face mask was designed by an Alder Hey Speech & Language Therapist who saw the need to overcome barriers to delivering therapy while wearing a standard surgical mask
· The BrillianSeeTM face mask is the only one of its kind that is clinically safe to support communication with those who have hearing difficulties, patients or service users with cognitive problems, younger or vulnerable patients and those with learning disabilities
BrillianSeeTM came to life after Alder Hey Speech & Language Therapist Wendy Blumenow found children in her care had difficulties in her speech therapy classes because they could not see her face during therapy sessions. Alder Hey set about designing a transparent mask to address Wendy’s issues and worked with Bluetree Medical to bring it to market. Taking delivery of the first masks, Wendy said: “This will make a huge difference to the children in my care– they will finally be able to see my face and benefit from their speech therapy while staying protected from Covid-19”.
The new transparent masks will also be rolled out across Alder Hey, being used by numerous teams, not just for Speech & Language therapists. Hospitals and health care professionals will still be able to require patients and visitors to wear masks unless they are exempt, after Public Health England (PHE) said existing guidance on Covid infection control will continue beyond 19 July.
Around half of Brits (46%) are believed to lip read as part of everyday communication, with a third stating seeing whole faces makes them feel more comfortable (29%). A recent 2,000 person survey on face mask wearing found 26% people believe they miss important information; 23% say they have difficulty understanding when they can’t read lips and 22% put it down to not seeing the whole facial expression. This is particularly important in a healthcare setting, where doctors and nurses may have limited time to relay information to their patients.
The BrillianSeeTM mask offers improved communication compared with other masks as you can see the face clearly, allowing for improved reading and interpretation of non-verbal cues. It is comfortable to wear and allows for unencumbered movement of the lower face. These features are essential when the patient has difficulties such as deafness and other communications issues which mean they need to lip read in order to understand what is being said to them.
Iain Hennessey, Consultant Paediatric and Neonatal Surgeon and Clinical Director of the Innovation Hub at Alder Hey said: “This partnership is a great example of what can be achieved when we work collaboratively. We’re delighted with the result. BrillianSeeTM gives healthcare professionals and patients a much better experience while keeping them safe. We plan to introduce these masks across the hospital all paediatric departments soon as possible.”
Co CEO of Bluetree, James Kinsella said: “We’re proud to have worked closely with Alder Hey to bring BrillianSeeTM to market and to see the difference it can make to patients and healthcare professionals.”
Bluetree Medical, based in Wath upon Dearne, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, researches, develops and manufactures high quality medical consumables. The first UK manufacturer to deliver Type IIR surgical masks to the NHS during the pandemic, Bluetree has invested over £18m in establishing its UK based manufacturing facility which includes an onsite laboratory and in-house melt blown production. Bluetree is an innovator, investing time collaborating with the NHS and health care professionals to develop products that truly meet the needs of their users.
With 1 in 4 adults projected to have some form of hearing loss by 2050[i], the BrillianSeeTM mask is an ideal way for healthcare professionals to support the needs of their patients while remaining safe. The NHS has recently provided guidanceii confirming that NHS settings will continue to require healthcare professionals and patients to wear face masks after July 19th. The product is a UKCA marked medical device registered with the MHRA and offers protection comparable to a Type II surgical mask.