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Sheffield Children’s doctor and medical student win Medipex Award for innovative salivary collection device

21 October 2022

They’ve only gone and won! Charlotte Elder, Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist and Joseph Tonge, final year medical student at the University of Sheffield have been named the winners of a Medipex Innovation Award in the Delivering Benefits through Diagnosis and Screening category. This recognises innovations designed to improve the detection and diagnoses of health conditions or disease. 

The aim of the Medipex NHS Innovation Awards is to uncover and showcase innovative ideas for new technologies and other interventionsSalivary collection device designed to improve patient care. 

The use of blood tests and needles is the most common technique for diagnostic tests which some children and young people can find painful and really upsetting. That’s why collection of saliva has increased in popularity as a tool for diagnosing and screening. It’s a non-invasive collection technique, which can be completed at home and then posted to the laboratories, great for families who might struggle to visit the hospital during the day, and it saves on travel costs too. 

However, Charlotte and Joseph felt there were still a number of obstacles with salivary collection for children under the age of six, due to the need for active patient participation and that’s where the SaliPac device comes into play.

The SaliPac is a simple to use, salivary collection device specifically designed for newborns, infants and young children. It combines a child’s pacifier (dummy) with a specialised salivary collecting swab. All the child has to do is suckle on the dummy for approximately two minutes ensuring that the collected saliva meets the indicator line on the device and then it’s ready to be sent off for analysing. 

Over the past two years, Charlotte and Joseph conducted studies to ensure the SaliPac would be successful and beneficial to young patients. They found that the device could collect enough saliva to be tested, as well as the process for children and the care givers being easier and less distressing than needle tests. The Children’s Hospital Charity kindly supported this research with £100k funding. 

Joseph said: “It’s amazing to have won this award as it recognises the amount of work put into developing the device by the many people involved, and the running of a clinical study within the NHS to test its acceptability in the paediatric population.”

Charlotte said: “We were very pleased to win the award but to be honest we were also surprised as our innovation is fairly simple, however sometimes simple changes can make a significant impact. We believe the innovation will have a positive impact on children and families, negating the need for blood tests and reducing trips to the hospital, and for me that is what research is all about!

Congrats Charlotte and Joseph! We’re excited to see this device be part of improving patient care.  


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