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Clear covid mask set for panoramic success

The development of a unique clear facemask designed by the Clinical Engineering Innovation team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge has passed another major milestone – and will help in the fight against Covid-19.

The mask is now officially registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a CE marked medical mask, meaning it conforms to health, safety, and environmental protection standards in Europe.

Now registered the mask can be utilised by other hospitals, care homes, and primary care in this country and Europe. It could be attractive to countries worldwide if it can be proved to also meet their standards.

The Panoramic Mio-Mask™ includes the same level of bacterial filtration and splash protection as the blue surgical masks most commonly worn in medical settings.

Once in production the mask, which is clear at the top with three-ply polypropylene filter material below the chin, will drastically improve communication between patients and staff who are hard of hearing, and be of particular use in speech and language and audio clinics where it is important to see mouth movements or lip read.

The absence of metal component means it can be worn by patients and those administering MRI scans, and in operating theatres where communication between surgeons is especially challenging using non-clear PPE.

Junior sister Emma Ayling demonstrates the mask

Work on the mask started last April in Addenbrooke’s Clinical Engineering department led by Professor Paul White. The project was in response to a need highlighted by Junior Sister Emma Ayling, who manages a busy Rosie hospital outpatient department, wears hearing aids, and is an accomplished lip-reader.

NHS England (NHSE), and other system partners also highlighted the clinical need for a clear mask, but the procurement teams found there was nothing on the market that gave them the level of protection and function required.

Stakeholder design workshops were set up to review the advantages and disadvantages of seven designs and national face measurement data, known as anthropometric measurements, was used to optimise facemask size.

The work was made possible thanks to manufacturing partner, St Neots-based LJA Miers, which provided valuable input to make the mask suitable for mass manufacture. The Trust has worked with the company on a number of projects since the start of Covid-19, notably on the manufacture of face visors, and LJA Miers will be the legal manufacturer of the Panoramic Mio-Mask™ mask.

Professor White, said: “This is another example of how my team is able to develop an unmet clinical need by working with clinicians and nursing staff at CUH, and linking with industry.

“There has been a need for a clear mask, which meets our functional, bacterial and viral requirements, across the whole health and care system since the start of the pandemic last March.

“The mask has now gone through clinical evaluation, and independent viral and bacterial testing. It could be used across the NHS and Europe and there is no reason why it could not be used worldwide, with appropriate regulatory approval.

I am very proud of not only my team but everybody working on the project, and our industrial collaborators who have brought this project to reality. It is with their input, determination and dedication during this difficult period, which will benefit the communication needs of our patients and staff and those of others.

Abigail Bush demonstrates the new Panoramic Mio-Mask
Design and innovation engineer, Abi Bush

Design and innovation engineer, Abi Bush, who led on the project with clinical scientist Dr Tom Griffiths, and medical physicist, Dr Hannah Price, said:

Achieving CE marking is a really important step for us and makes all the work worthwhile. It has been a massive team effort.

Design and innovation engineer, Abi Bush

Emma, who specialises in Gynaecology and Early Pregnancy Care, added: “Within Gynaecology, we undertake outpatient diagnostic services as well as consultations. I am able to lip-read patients and staff wearing the clear mask, optimising my level of care, compassion and communication.”

LJA Miers commercial director, Tony Barber, said: “The company, which has a background in the automotive industry, completely repurposed its facilities at the start of Covid-19 to assist with the supply of visors.

“We are delighted to be doing our part in the fight against Covid-19 by providing clinicians and their patients the protection they need at such a challenging time for everyone.”