A new device developed in Sheffield to replace existing neck supports for Motor Neurone Disease patients has been awarded first prize at a health design exhibition.
The Head-Up project was worked on by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and both of the city’s universities, and produced a collar which makes it easier for patients to carry out fundamental tasks such as eating and communicating.
The new collar sits low on the patient’s neck, offering support along the contours of the neck muscles.
Consultant neurologist Dr Christopher McDermott, co-director of the Sheffield MND Care Centre, led the project, which was chosen as the winning exhibit in a show held at Sheffield Hallam University.
The event - part of a conference called Design4Health - showcased the role design plays in healthcare, with other innovations including a suit made of mohair which reacts to different body temperatures.
Patient Moya Briggs, aged 67, from Doncaster, who was diagnosed with MND four years ago, took part in the project and said she was pleased with the new collar.
“The fact this new collar is inconspicuous and comfortable will make all the difference,” she said.
“It was wonderful for me, because the muscles at the back of my neck usually feel the strain but I could instantly feel the relief. I think it’s going to be a great relief to a lot of people.
“Every time I go out I will be wearing it. I need it for when I’m on the computer or if I’ve got to sit at the table or do anything for a long period of time.”
University designers are building 30 neck braces ahead of a 10-month testing period in partnership with the Motor Neurone Association.
The team won a funding bid from the National Institute for Health Research, alongside the city’s Devices for Dignity programme and the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience.
Joe Langley, senior research fellow at Sheffield Hallam University, added: “The exhibition provided a real, tangible focal point for many of the debates in the conference, creating provocations, case studies and examples which enhanced and livened the discussion.”
The next conference will be in 2015.