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Healthier Scotland: Visualising the Invisible

Date: 04/07/2013

With Norovirus, MRSA and C. Difficile continuing to be a risk to patient recovery, and with ever- increasing resistance to antibiotics, a new research project is bringing together experts from all over Scotland together with NHS staff, to examine, for the first time, how front line NHS staff think about these invisible threats, and to look at ways to make them more visible.

The latest AHRC film on the project from the AHRC shines a light on a dynamic research collaboration that helps healthcare staff prevent and control healthcare associated infections such as MRSA. The project, called Visualising the Invisible, is jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

Led by staff from the Institute for Health and Welfare Research and the university’s Institute for Innovation Design and Sustainability at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, project has seen nursing, and art and design researchers working alongside NHS staff including microbiologists, cleaners, nurses, estates staff and patient representatives.

Project leader, Dr Colin Macduff, explains: “although we know a lot about the germs or pathogens that cause these infections, we know much less about how front-line staff and patients imagine them in clinical settings, and how this influences care giving and receipt. The project has worked with these groups to better understand what is in “the mind’s eye”, and to map perceived areas of risk. This has then been compared with new data gathered in a hospital setting”.

Dr Stephanie Dancer, Consultant Microbiologist in NHS Lanarkshire, gathered data, tracking which items within a ward were touched, how often and by whom. Items in the study included patient notes, bedside locker and the bed frame. Dr Dancer said: “Many of the staff we worked with had a good basic grasp of where problem areas actually exist, but there were some areas of difference, and there remains considerable scope for imaginative ways to help educate staff, patients and visitors”.

In the final part of the project, design professionals from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee and the Glasgow School of Art worked together to create a number of ways to help healthcare workers visualise the threat of pathogens in clinical areas. This included video clips which can provide the user with ‘augmented reality’ on-screen information as they view an area through the screen. The aim is to go on in the future to develop a user-friendly system providing relevant information in real-time that can be updated as conditions change in the setting.

This film offers an insight to the project including interviews and explanations from academics, and NHS staff.  The broadcast of the film coincides with the launch of a new, freely accessible website, which pulls together all the research and outputs in one place, please visit the Visualising the Invisible website

The project is funded under the AHRC / SFC Knowledge Exchange Programme, ‘A healthier Scotland’. The exciting programme consists of six knowledge exchange projects in the field of health and the environment.  Collectively and individually the projects contribute strategically to the Scottish Government’s national objective for a Healthier Scotland.

To watch the film, please visit the Visualising the Invisible Film webpage. For AHRC press enquires or enquiries about the film,  please contact Emi Spinner  on 01793 416020 or e.spinner@ahrc.ac.uk

For media enquires or to speak to the academic involved, please contact Robert Gordon University communications office via Communications Officer Ross Anderson on Tel: (01224) 262389 or email: ross.anderson@rgu.ac.uk

Notes to editors

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.
  • About the AHRC/SFC Knowledge Exchange Programme: A Healthier Scotland

    The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) are currently funding a number of knowledge exchange projects of mutual strategic interest in the field of health and the environment.

  • The AHRC/SFC Knowledge Exchange Programme aims to:

    Support research based knowledge exchange projects that are driven by the clear and strong involvement of non Higher Education Institution (HEI) partners and which lead to significant outcomes for those organisations as well as for the HEI(s).

    Promote the contribution that the arts and humanities can make to a healthier Scotland, specifically in the context of the environment and health.

    Contribute strategically to the Scottish Government's national objective for a healthier Scotland

    Through research based knowledge exchange between arts and humanities scholars and non-Higher Education Institute partners, the projects will improve our understanding of health and wellbeing, contribute to the implementation of health policy and/or the nature of clinical practice and should aim to create a legacy of further partnership activity.
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