Written by Dr Gillian Clayton, Centre for Research in Biosciences, Faculty of Health and Applied Science
Humanitarian settings, such as refugee camps, require consistent access to safe, high-quality water, but this can be difficult due to complex supply chains. If supply chains are interrupted or delayed, vital clinical solutions like sterile saline used to wash out wounds, and antimicrobials, such as hypochlorous acid, used to disinfect instruments and wash wounds are essential to ensure patient safety. Typically, clinical fluids (e.g. sterile saline and antimicrobials) are produced, packaged and transported in a ‘centralised’ manner. For example, solutions may be produced in the UK and then held at a storage facility/warehouse, before being transported via land, air and/or sea to the healthcare facility.
However, the Redistributed Manufacturing in Healthcare Network has investigated the potential to allow for clinical fluids to be produced on-site and on-demand, minimising the need for storage and transportation. A proof-of-concept project lead by UWE in collaboration with The Usher Institute (University of Edinburgh), Centrego Ltd, Portsmouth Aqua Ltd, The Royal College of Surgeons of England and Water for People and Peace investigated “The On-Demand Manufacture of Potable & Sterile Water for Emergency Medical, Humanitarian & Healthcare Applications Using Electrochemical Activation Production Technologies”. This project developed, adapted and repurposed Electrochemically Activated technologies for the on-demand production of clinical fluids for healthcare facilities in resources constrained environments. This project demonstrated that simple, low-cost and low-energy technologies can produce sterile solutions from tap or bottled waters, as well as produce a high-quality antimicrobial solution (hypochlorous acid) from a small-scale portable generator. These prototype technologies have shown that remote or resource constrained healthcare facilities can be adaptive and more resilient in a changing world through decentralised production, or redistributed manufacturing.