Creative radiotherapy staff see their ideas in action with help from The Royal Marsden’s Innovation Den

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity is running a Dragon’s Den-style initiative to make staff ideas a reality in order to improve patient experiences.

Loosely based on the BBC TV programme, the Innovation Den is a forum in which staff are encouraged to put forward their ideas to help enhance patient experience and safety. After an initial application process, shortlisted entries are presented to a panel that decides which ideas should receive a charity grant of £5,000 to £60,000.

One project involves a new type of face shield to be worn by patients undergoing electron radiotherapy, developed by The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research joint department of physics.

3D radiotherapy shield
The 3D radiotherapy shield.

Head of radiotherapy physics in Sutton Dr Michael Thomas and superintendent radiographer Craig Lacey worked with colleagues to use 3D printing technology to make radiation shields to safeguard healthy areas of the body during radiotherapy. The aim of the face shield project is to produce better shielding with less effort, replacing the complex and highly manual current method of making shields. Using CT scans and computerised design, mechanical engineer Jim Sullivan developed the process.

In the radiotherapy department patients need to drink a certain amount of water in order to fill their bladders before treatment. Previously, single-use plastic cups were provided alongside the water fountains and patients were told how much water to drink. With 60,000 single-use plastic cups used every year, therapeutic radiographers Gillian Smith and Helen Barnes had the idea of giving patients specially designed, reusable water bottles that would help them drink the right amount of water, improve their general hydration and be kinder to the environment. After the idea was pitched to the Innovation Den, patients began using the bottles in June as part of the Go Green and Drink Clean! pilot project.

The Go Green and Drink Clean! project.
Therapeutic radiographers Gillian Smith and Helen Barnes with their bottle.

Patient Earl Williams, who is having radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer, said: “The water bottle is a great idea. It is not just the shape that’s different, but it also has the actual measurements so I can easily monitor how much water I am drinking. It gives me the impetus to drink more water and the radiotherapy team are always pleased because I have a full bladder for my appointments.”

Lead picture: Mechanical engineer Jim Sullivan, superintendent radiographer Craig Lacey and head of radiotherapy physics Dr Michael Thomas.

Published on the front page of the January 2021 issue of RAD Magazine.

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