When we think of a nurse or engineer, we don’t think of them as inventors. But that’s exactly what a nurse and hospital engineer at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust have become after they designed a new product with the support of charitable funding from Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity and the innovation team.

The duo noticed there were issues behind patients’ beds with messy tubing and wires, posing an infection control issue and causing problems when clinicians tried to access the vital equipment.  
Head of resuscitation services Emma Thomson and Steve Connew, former electro-biomedical engineering operational manager, felt improvements could be made – but without an existing product to help tidy up the area around a patient’s bedhead they invented one themselves!
Steve said: “A jumble of tubing and wires are by a patient’s bedhead. It causes nursing staff problems, it doesn’t look good or professional either. I thought there must be something to tidy them up – but I couldn’t find anything. There wasn’t a uniform solution and I even asked across different hospitals – but nothing existed."
Their idea was simple – a product that would tidy up the tubing around a patient’s bedhead, moving it away from the floor, preventing confusion from flow meters and ensure it wasn’t an infection control risk. But driving it forwards and getting the idea off the ground meant they needed support, funding and advice.  Steve added: “I just thought simple is best and the holder with built-in hooks means it can hold nasal cannulas, suction devices and yankers. Teaming up with the Innovations Team and the Charity, Steve and Emma were able to gain access to the support, expertise and funding they needed and the Bedhead Tidy will now be rolled out to the wards.
The idea, design protection, financial support in costing it out, market analysis to research competitor products and the backing from the team in how to bring it to market was driven by the Innovation Team.​​​​​​​ Emma said: “We would never have been able to drive the project forward without the Charity and the Innovation Team’s help. Not only have they got the guidance and information needed to move forward, they’ve also kept us on track and kept the product on the radar to get us to this point."
Porters have strength tested it to see how durable it is, patients have trialled a prototype at Colchester Hospital, staff have fed back on using it and now there are three versions being created for hospital beds, specialist care beds (neonatal and critical care) as well as a design for the beds in the community.
Ward sister Jane Kemp, at Colchester Hospital’s Easthorpe Ward, has used the product as part of the trials to test it out. She said the product really helps the team. She added: “It’s a simple device and helps us do our job. It’s also cost saving as prevents wastage from items that are no longer able to be used and have to be thrown away. Every penny counts."
The Bedhead Tidy is the first case that has been registered and is now ready for manufacture with 1,000 units being produced, but the team is keen to hear from other people with ideas they can support through development. Peter Cook, assistant director of innovation and education, added: “We are really keen to hear from anyone in the Trust who has an idea, invention or initiative they think may be great for their department or the whole Trust. It doesn’t have to be an invention like the Bedhead Tidy – it could be a new piece of technology, a new system or a different way of working. No idea is too small or too large and we have the funding through the hospital charity to help through the early stages of development. We’re really keen to hear from anyone who has a small gem of an idea they think could work. Please get in touch.2
The Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity has provided £5,000 ‘innovation vouchers’ to contribute to the project as well as an additional £9,180 towards the project to ensure every ward has access to the Bedhead Tidy for their beds. Through the Gibbons Innovation Fund the charity offers £5,000 innovation vouchers to staff to support early-stage development of their ideas.