Ex Porton Down consultant joins PP-L Health Technology Solutions

Ex Porton Down consultant joins PP-L Health Technology Solutions

Dr Rhys Thomas has joined an East Midlands based health-tech firm that helps organisations manage and reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Earlier this year, Dr Thomas invented one of the only two devices to have succeeded in the Government’s Covid Emergency Ventilator Challenge, winning approval by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). The device is about to complete its medical trials in the UK and overseas, so it can be used to support ICUs this winter.

Previously, he worked at the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) Porton Down which carries out research into chemical weapons and deadly diseases. He has also served as a consultant anaesthetist in the British Army and the NHS, where he continues to treat coronavirus patients in UK hospitals.

Joining PP-L Health Technology Solutions as Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, Dr Thomas is determined to help organisations to prevent the airborne transmission of COVID-19.

Dr Rhys Thomas said: “This virus is going to be with us for a long time, and it’s clear that even with a vaccine, COVID-19 will continue to be a risk that has to be managed and contained if we’re to have any kind of economic recovery. Unfortunately, this winter is going to be especially tough as the huge risk of indoor transmission increases as a result of colder weather helping the virus to spread and driving more people indoors. This means we must face up to a severe and immediate threat and also adapt to overcome a long term problem.”

“Since this pandemic began, there has been loads of scientific research into COVID-19 and its transmission, and we now know that the virus is primarily spread through airborne microdroplets which can spread very easily from person to person. Studies have shown that it can spread up to eight metres from an infected person and linger in the air for up to 16 hours. The problem is, government guidance for workplaces has barely changed since the spring and so we’re still treating it like a flu-like virus that is mainly spread through contaminated surfaces, which is way behind the science.

“Fortunately, there is simple, safe, affordable technology which can destroy the virus and almost all other pathogens in seconds, whether it’s in the air or on a surface. Germicidal UV-C disinfection systems could easily be used in classrooms, offices, factories, pubs, restaurants, trains and buses to make indoor environments safe enough for us to get on with our lives and rebuild our economy.

“It’s vital that the government and business leaders recognise this, because right now, our attempts to tackle the virus aren’t doing enough.”

PP-L Health Technology Solutions was founded in Lincolnshire this year by Chartered Engineer Paul Waldeck. The company aims to help organisations prevent the spread of COVID-19 through their operations and to protect them from future disease outbreaks. PP-L designs, specifies and installs proven solutions from world leading manufacturers to eliminate pathogens in a range of environments.

Upon joining PP-L, Dr Thomas co-authored an open letter to all Westminster MPs, calling for urgent changes to the government’s COVID-secure guidance to prevent airborne transmission.

The open letter, which Dr Thomas co-wrote with Paul Waldeck, calls on the government to strengthen its guidance on the use of face masks and on increasing ventilation while also requiring some indoor locations to use UV-C air disinfection systems and recommending their use in other areas. Citing several recent scientific papers and studies, Dr Thomas and Paul Waldeck argue that these steps will be crucial to reducing the spread of the virus in indoor environments.

Dr Rhys Thomas (L) and Paul Waldeck (R)

The open letter reads:

“Despite mounting scientific evidence regarding the risk of COVID-19 being transmitted through airborne respiratory microdroplets, also referred to as aerosols or bioaerosols, it is our view that the current “COVID-secure” guidance does not provide adequate protection against this means of transmission.

We are therefore asking for you to join us in calling for this gap in our armour to be strengthened by requiring the use of face masks in a wider range of indoor settings and requiring improved ventilation to buildings and transport.

We are also repeating calls from many in the global scientific community for safe and competently engineered UV-C air disinfection systems to be required in all low temperature indoor work environments where adequate ventilation is not possible, such as in food processing facilities.

In addition, we ask that COVID-secure guidance is also changed to recommend the use of these proven COVID-destroying systems in all other indoor work spaces, venues where the public gather indoors and in transport environments where air ventilation is poor or where air is largely recirculated.

Following this letter, Dr Thomas and Paul Waldeck have been invited to attend meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, by the group’s chair Geraint Davies, MP. At the group’s October meeting, Dr Thomas and Mr Waldeck called for new legislation to control the spread of harmful bacteria and microbes in indoor environments.

UV-C is a low wavelength ultraviolet light which has been used for decades to destroy viruses, with its effectiveness having been proven by more than 4,000 scientific papers and studies. UV-C air disinfection systems have even been shown to reduce the airborne transmission of even the most contagious airborne pathogens, such as tuberculosis by 80%.

As well as being used to disinfect surfaces, UV-C light can sterilise airborne microorganisms through upper room air disinfection systems

As well as being used in highly regulated environments where hygiene is essential such as in laboratories, UV-C is also deployed as a defence technology by military forces around the world against biological weapons. Germicidal UV-C air disinfection systems can be installed into heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling systems or as a standalone air disinfection system.

Dr Rhys Thomas and Paul Waldeck argue that while all occupied indoor environments would benefit from the use of this technology, this could be especially useful in cool, indoor environments with poor ventilation in which the virus can spread more easily.

Despite their criticism of the existing COVID-secure guidance, Dr Thomas and Paul Waldeck say that the government should be praised for the “positive steps” it has taken so far to prevent the spread of the virus. They explain that the guidance must now evolve to reflect the increased understanding of the virus, writing that the measures they propose would help the UK to adapt to the “new normal” and recover from the pandemic.

To find out more about PP-L health Technology Solutions please visit www.pplpro.co.uk and to read their open letter in full, click here.

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