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Vernacare wins Queen’s Award for Enterprise

9 May 2011

Medical products manufacturer Vernacare, based in Bolton, Greater Manchester, has won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise ( Innovation category) – for its unique detergent proof disposable wash bowl – that is helping to lead the fight against hospital ‘superbugs’.

This is the world’s first single-use pulp wash bowl, capable of holding both warm water and detergent, and avoids the infection risk of re-using traditional plastic bowls.

Since its launch in 2007, the patented product has been adopted by more than a third of NHS Hospitals, and by hospitals in 12 other countries, with eight million bowls sold last year.

The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are made annually by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, and are granted for five years. Vernacare’s award was in recognition of “outstanding innovation, resulting in substantial improvement in business performance and commercial success”.

Karen Haslam, Chief Executive of Vernacare, said: “This is a huge honour for our business and staff, and for the hospital clinicians who helped us to develop the product. We are very proud that our wash bowl is at the forefront of worldwide strategies to combat hospital acquired infections, and that this achievement and our commercial success, has been recognised by the Queen and Prime Minister.

“Hospital acquired infections result in many deaths each year, and cost the NHS one billion pounds per annum, which is enough money to fund around 33,000 additional nurses. The Vernacare wash bowl is a positive step forward in the fight against ‘superbugs’, such as MRSA and Clostridium Difficile (C.Diff), helping to save both lives and money”.

Vernacare’s business was founded on innovation almost 50 years ago when the company pioneered the ‘Vernacare System’ which provide single use pulp products for patients who are not fully mobile and a macerator for disposing of them. This is a best practice method used in more than 40 countries, and by 90% of UK hospitals, making Vernacare a top 30 supplier to the NHS.

The wash bowl is one of 150 million pulp products made each year by Vernacare in Bolton from 100% recycled newsprint (without using bleach or dye). After use, healthcare staff place the products in a macerator waste disposal machine (also designed and made by Vernacare in Bolton). The pulp then disintegrates into biodegradable fragments that wash away with the cold waste water.

The Vernacare wash bowl provides a time saving, hygienic and environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional process of chemically disinfecting, washing and drying
plastic washbowls at high temperatures, and the problem of disposing of plastic which is almost impossible to biodegrade. It also saves money on energy consumption and clinical/landfill waste disposal.

The introduction of the wash bowl made it financially viable for Vernacare to invest £1.5 million in automating its inspection and packing facilities in Bolton, which is improving cost, quality and environmental performance. It has also boosted productivity and capacity to accommodate further innovation and a planned doubling of global turnover by 2014.

The wash bowl was developed in response to demand from infection prevention nurses in the UK who identified that re-using plastic wash bowls was an infection risk. Vernacare’s own research and development and production teams spent two years creating the unique detergent resistant pulp formulation, working with the company’s clinical advisory group and NHS nurses to develop and perfect the product.

The four litre wash bowl is used for hand washing, general surface cleaning, wound care, shaving, continence care and general patient care.

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