Meet Ella, the cleaning robot. She’s programmed to clean large floor areas, uses 70% less water with fewer chemicals than traditional cleaning methods and she can also sing Happy Birthday, tell a joke, rap or have a chat with you.
Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust is one of the first NHS Trusts in the UK to welcome a cleaning robot to its staff, thanks to its partnership with Medirest, the healthcare division of Compass Group UK & Ireland.
Medirest, the contractors who look after cleaning, waste, portering, catering and much more at Royal Surrey chose the Trust to trial their first UK cleaning robot just over a year ago and found that Ella improved quality, consistency of cleaning and received a positive reaction from staff.
Although she attracts a lot of attention in the Trust corridors, Ella is far from just a gimmick. Gareth Donaldson, Medirest’s Contract Director, said: “This is the future and it’s all about releasing time to care for staff. Ella is making a huge difference to repetitive cleaning work, covering large areas of the Trust. The use of robotic cleaners is vital to help free up staff to focus on what’s important.
“Thanks to Ella, our team of cleaners have more time to concentrate on the critical ‘touch point’ hot spot areas for infection transmission, such as handrails, door handles, lifts and doors to wards. This is vitally important, especially during a pandemic.”
Programmed with a GPS plan of the hospital and set areas to clean, Ella is placed at the start point on each level of the site to begin her rounds. After completing the programmed circuit, she returns to base to clean herself and get ready for her next assignment.
Ella’s design includes some smart safety features. She uses a clever scrub and dry system that leaves no water trail, unlike conventional cleaning machines that leave a residue. This removes the need for wet floor warning signs that restrict space on corridors. Built in alert systems also help Ella to detect people approaching from behind and in front, allowing her to come to a halt if beds or trolleys need to move past.
Gareth said: “We’ve now invested in 12 cleaning robots among the Trusts we work with, in partnership with cleaning specialist Killis. But we went live with robotics at Royal Surrey first out of all our UK Trusts because it’s seen as a centre of excellence and ideal ground for testing innovation and new projects.”
Jacqui Tingle, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Royal Surrey, said: “Ella is a valuable and welcome addition to support our Medirest housekeeping team who all work incredibly hard to keep the Trust spotlessly clean and safe for patients and staff. We always aim for extremely high standards of cleanliness at all times and robotic technology is an important element in continually achieving this across a large site.”
Staff from the cleaning team who ‘supervise’ Ella, monitoring her progress and making sure she doesn’t get stuck in corners, say that patient feedback has been enthusiastic. Gareth added: “It’s always going to create a bit of a buzz seeing something like Ella moving round the hospital, especially with young patients, but what’s important is adding value to the work we do for our NHS Trusts and Ella definitely delivers on this.”