NHS Connecting for Health has procured 7,500 infection-resistant keyboards for use in hospitals across England, in a move designed to prevent the spread of hospital infections.
Originally developed for University College London Hospital, in a pilot project supported by Connecting for Health, the keyboards incorporate a flashing light to remind users to regularly clean the surface, and sensors to measure how clean the are.
Keyboards are regarded as high-risk devices in hospitals, capable of harbouring infections due to their many crevices and holes, where debris can accumulate.
These infection-resistant keyboards are completely flat and covered with a hypoallergenic material resistant to bug growth.
The keyboard's timed warning light can be configured to meet the needs of different environments. The warning light only goes out when all the sensors are activated, indicating that the keyboard is clean.
An internal evaluation by University College London Hospital has shown that the keyboard warning light successfully reinforces the NHS Clean Your Hands campaign, increasing hand washing by up to 10%.
University College London Hospital research has shown that bacteria levels on the keyboards fall by 70% if they are cleaned every 12 hours.
Maureen Baker, national clinical lead for clinical safety, said, "This is a good example of designing for safety and reflects our commitment to deliver safer systems for the NHS and safer care for patients.
"It represents a significant step forward in the drive to tackle hospital-acquired infections and cut the number of cases of MRSA. These keyboards provide staff with a constant reminder of the importance of washing their hands and keeping their computer clean."
The 7,500 keyboards will be made available free of charge to the strategic health authorities, which will distribute them to trusts in their region.
Dr Paul Jones, chief technology officer at Connecting for Health, said, "Pump-priming the market by introducing these infection-resistant keyboards is a great example of how technological innovations can help towards preventing cross-infection and improving patient safety in hospital environments.
"The central procurement has enabled us to achieve a 30% reduction in cost and we are now working with strategic health authorities, trusts, our supplier and the manufacturer to widely deliver the keyboards to the NHS."