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Robotics and Innovation

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

An interview with Anna Hallas, Infection Control Lead, Medirest—Part of Compass Group UK & Ireland and Nicola Lamont, Senior Domestic Manager—Medirest at Sherwood Forest Hospitals. Talking about their recent trial of robotic cleaning in Sherwood Forest Hospitals.



What was learnt from trialling the robots at Sherwood Forest Hospitals? Were there any surprising outcomes? Did the trial identify any challenges of deploying cleaning robots with a hospital environment?


Anna – We have trialled many cleaning robots over the last few years and then focussed on the Killis Lionsbot robot in three partner sites – Sherwood Hospital being one. We worked with them over the course of a year, to see how they worked and how they could support our existing cleaning teams. The trials were obviously successful, but the surprising thing about the “Hanzel” robot is how well they worked in hospitals and how engaged, staff, patients and visitors are with the robotics while they are cleaning.


The other benefit that clients are surprised by, is that the tech uses a scrubber dryer system, which typically uses 70% less water and fewer chemicals than traditional cleaning methods. Therefore the use of the robots is helping Trusts to operate more sustainably, as well as contribute towards our own climate Net Zero targets.


Nicola - It was an exciting opportunity to be part of the trials of the cleaning robots, especially when the team were under so much pressure when Covid first struck. We have been pleased with how engaged the team were and how many domestics were interested in learning how to operate the new technology, seeing it very much as complementing and enhancing our roles.


We now have two robots and they need to be accompanied by a “buddy”, who focuses on the more intricate cleaning while the robot can work on large open spaces, such as corridors.


Are findings/learnings from the trials shared with other UK hospital trusts? Is the roll-out of cleaning robots likely to expand?


Anna – We work with over 20 NHS Trusts in the UK, so of course we always share findings from trials with the other hospitals and sites we work with - the power of knowledge driven by our front line operators and sites is invaluable for other hospitals and facilities. We have rolled out 12 robots in total with our partners and working with other sites such as King’s College Hospital.


During the pandemic I have been working with NHS England and NHS Improvement closely to support with FM and cleaning guidance across hospitals, so of course we would be happy to talk to any Trusts about our robot trials and our learnings so far.


How do the robots integrate with the cleaning teams? What did patients think?


Anna – We have received really great feedback from our teams on the ground and this was all taken into account when refining the capability of the robots. They are very much put in place to support the work of our domestic staff. The robots are designed with “cobotics” in mind – creating a balance between the robots and people - automating a range of tasks via interaction between humans and robotics. Our experience has been that they do work very well together, freeing up our team members for more complex jobs.


Patients and visitors to the site are also very taken with the robots, initially they all stop and want to take selfies and we’ve seen so many pictures pop up on social media with them.

Nicola - The robots have drawn a huge amount of attention in the hospital - staff and visitors often stop to watch while they are working in the corridors. We regularly hear people comment “I want one of those at home!”


Our teams have also embraced the introduction of the robots, as a new addition to our team that really helps us get more done. The investment in this technology has made a difference to what we can all focus on, on the ground day to day.


Did the focus on hygiene following covid speed up the deployment of such solutions?


Anna – There is no doubt that Covid has increased the focus on cleaning and hygiene more than ever. This did coincide with our trials, so the timing worked well in terms of increased workload and having the robots, which helped reduce the pressure on our teams slightly.


Nicola - Having the robots has allowed us the time to be able to do more enhanced cleaning, focusing on touch point areas. I’m not sure it’s sped up the deployment, but I think it’s offered a greater awareness of the role our cleaning teams play in the everyday running of a hospital, that demonstrates the value of this kind of investment.


Some of these technologies are still novel, what development of the technology would benefit hospitals?


Anna - There are many innovations that could benefit hospitals and we work very closely with our suppliers and partners to investigate technology and innovation, and we trial and test them to ensure they work in a live hospital environment. This has been a great example of the power of our partnership approach – trialling a new innovation, getting feedback and then being able to share that with other hospitals within our network.

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