The NHS Health Scotland is set to fund organisations that seek to develop new approaches to automate the pre-cleaning of surgical instruments and tools.

A total of up to £150,000 has been allocated through the Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund to support the studies that will foster the new research ideas.

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The majority of the current cleaning, inspection and sterilisation of surgical instruments is carried out manually as existing automated pre-cleaning systems are intended mainly for certain segments such as neurological surgery. The systems are also said to focus only on a specific set of tools.

The new project is intended to improve these systems to address clinical, health, safety and environmental challenges, leading to enhanced efficiency and decreased costs.

The UK is exploring the ideas in the form of a competition that calls for solutions to automate pre-soaking, chemical dosing, internal flushing, and removal of coarse contamination.

“Successful projects are set to be fully supported during a second phase, which will include additional funding of £300,000.”

The new systems must be compatible with current NHS equipment and should include fully programmable pre-cleaning steps, measurement and monitoring. They must come with an option to integrate automated washers or their disinfectors.

To be run under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), the competition welcomes organisations that could show that their idea is marketable.

The first phase contracts are expected to take place over approximately six months, of which successful projects are set to be fully supported during a second phase, which will include additional funding of £300,000.

Projects are expected to begin in August.