News post

New equipment for added safety

We have new equipment to help keep you and your optician safe during your appointment.

The new breath shield has been developed with safety in mind and provides a greater working distance between yourself and the optician.

Our optician Paul Ratcliffe, who has worked for us for 16 years, has designed and created the new apparatus to be used in conjunction with the PanOptic ophthalmoscope, offering increased protection. We speak to Paul about his creation.

How did you design and create the breath shield?

Initially, to get an idea of how it may work, I cut up a plastic milk bottle to fit the ophthalmoscope through. I then used a plastic clipboard to do the same process. Then I created a similar design but bigger- almost A4 in size. I didn’t centralise the hole for the PanOptic ophthalmoscope because I wanted as much of the face covered as possible. I also wanted to reduce the risk of catching the patients nose with the edge of the shield. I then considered curving the outside edge to add rigidity and make it more comfortable for the patient, should it contact them.

I decided to use grommets to fit each hole for a better finish and to ensure full protection when in use. Once I finalised the design, I brought the required equipment and began making it – I put the bends in the vertical edges of the shield, drilled the holes, fitted the grommets and clips and then I had a working prototype.

What challenges did you find with the design and creation process?

Originally the intention was to turn it around, back to front, to use for the opposite eye but this put the side that the patient had been breathing on, onto the practitioner side and vice versa which was not ideal. I decided that instead of turning the shield back to front, I would move to two different holes – one for each eye, and rotate it 180 degrees upside down, keeping the same side of the shield to each individual.

How did you mass-produce it?

I consulted with a plastics engineer in Leeds regarding production and worked with them to assess usability and make final adjustments where necessary. Once it was ready, we produced one hundred shields in total. I fitted all the grommets myself to save time and costs; then I sent them to head-office for dispersing across the workforce.

How user-friendly is the equipment?

It is straightforward to use – lightweight, transportable, easy to clean, and non-invasive. I designed it to minimise the risks to both patient and optician. I hope that in time there will no longer be a use for it, but during these uncertain times, it serves its purpose and keeps myself, my colleagues and our patients safe.

We hope that this new apparatus combined with PPE will reassure you of your safety in your home during your appointment. If you need to book an eye test, please give us a call on 0800 60 50 40.


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