The NHS has taken delivery of 7,500 infection-resistant keyboards, which could significantly cut the rates of hospital bugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.
The Medigenic keyboards were designed by a team at University College London Hospital (UCLH), then manufactured by an American company called Esterline and sold back to the NHS by Esterline's UK distributor, Advanced Power Components (APC).
The Medigenic keyboard
Studies have suggested that computer input devices such as keyboards and mice play a part in the spread of common hospital infections. Keyboards in hospitals usually have covers, but the uneven surface makes it easy for bacteria to escape cleaning, when and if it takes place. The Medigenic keyboards are completely flat and coated in a "hypoallergenic material resistant to bacterial growth", according to APC.
The UCLH team's research had shown that bacteria levels on keyboards are cut by 70 percent if the devices are cleaned every 12 hours.
An LED is also incorporated into the Medigenic keyboard, set to flash when the keyboard needs cleaning. The light is also intended to remind hospital staff to wash their hands.
"Doctors and nurses were going from patient to keyboard without washing their hands," said consultant microbiologist Dr Peter Wilson, one of the doctors at UCLH who designed the keyboard. "That's quite understandable because you would wash your hands between patients but not between a patient and a keyboard."
Wilson also said the new keyboards' design encouraged users to clean them regularly. "Compliance with twice daily cleaning went up from 10 to 20 percent with the keyboard covers to 87 per cent with the new model," he said.