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REAL LIFE STORIES

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An innovative design project led by a hospital’s Clinical Photography team has resulted in a safer and easier way of photographing patients. The department, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB), undertook a review of the methods used to photograph patients’ legs, based on client feedback and the experiences of the staff themselves.

They called on the support of their colleagues in Occupational Health and enlisted Slingsby to create a new platform that successfully met all their requirements.

Carly Betton, Clinical Photography Team Manager, explained: “We wanted to be more confident that both the patient and the photographer would be safe throughout the process and that the images taken would be aesthetically acceptable according to professional standards.

“It was not the anatomical orientation that was in question but the logistics of how to raise the patient from the ground, to enable correct positioning of the camera in a position parallel to the subject, which did not require the photographer having to lie on the floor.”

As in many other hospitals, the department had for many years used a simple raised platform to elevate patients. However, it was heavy and cumbersome and difficult for the photographers to safely move it in and out of the centre of the studio. It did have a non-slip surface but no safety rails, meaning patients were required to step onto it unaided. Once on the platform they would be required to stand for several minutes, again unaided. A small step was used to aid the patient onto the platform but this was not attached and the steps were not closed therefore creating a trip hazard.

The team at QEHB, which is run by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, asked the Occupational Health department to perform a risk assessment of the leg photography procedure, taking into account the possible risk to both the photographer and the patient when:

  • Moving the platform in and out of position in the centre of the studio
  • Stepping onto and off the platform and moving to the centre and back
  • Standing still on the platform while photographs are performed
  • Cleaning the platform between patients

The advice was to revise the design and for staff to undertake a manual handling/ minimal patient handling training session on use of the old platform in the interim period. In addition to safe use the platform also had to be ‘invisible’ in the photographic field.

Carly explained: “We use a black background and so we required the platform to be the same colour so that it would be aesthetically acceptable for use in our clinical photography."Our old platform was painted a matt black and the top was a non-slip black rubber - both aspects we wanted to keep for the new design."

Occupational Health then enlisted our help for our expertise in handling and lifting equipment and ideas about manoeuvrability and safety rails.

The group came up with a specification for the platform which ticked as many boxes as possible.

The new design has fixed steps as part of the platform and two handrails; one running up the steps and a second positioned at the opposite side to the steps so that patients can hold on to either or both while standing on the platform.

The new platform also has wheels with fixed brakes at each corner and these, along with the handrails, can be used to manoeuvre the platform into the centre of the studio without risk of injury.

"We can now feel confident that we have a safe method of photographing patients' legs that maintains professional standards both visually and in the area of health and safety," said Carly.

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