Pillow case doctor dreams up sleep aid

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr Ruth McAllister, has dreamed up a pillow case that can help her patients get a better night's sleep.
Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr Ruth McAllister, has dreamed up a pillow case that can help her patients get a better night's sleep.

She was urged to go on Dragons’ Den with her idea – but clinician, Dr Ruth McAllister, decided to go her own way – with the result that her patients can now look forward to a better night’s sleep.

The Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, who works for Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, which treats people in Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich, has invented a very clever disposable pillow case which is a great boon to hypersalivation sufferers. Oxleas is piloting the new patient aid for people suffering an uncomfortable side-effect of medication.

Dr McAllister explained: “Many patients on antipsychotics, especially clozapine, suffer from excess saliva production, which can be worse at night. Their pillows can be so wet that the discomfort wakes them up. Many of them try sleeping with a towel wrapped round the pillow, but it holds the moisture next to the face and tends to come adrift in the night.”

She got to work with a borrowed sewing machine and a pile of cut-up nappies. She made some padded absorbent pillow cases for the patients to try out. They were a hit – the patients say they’re comfortable, they soak up all the moisture and keep your face dry. “Everybody who’s on clozapine is going to want them” said one patient. “They were a huge success” said another. Several people encouraged Ruth to go on Dragons’ Den with her idea.

Instead, she took her idea to NHS Innovations, who turned it down flat. But Oxleas Finance Director, Richard Page, encouraged Ruth to go ahead anyway. “I like this idea” he said. “It’s simple but effective and the patients want it. I think we should give it a try”. With trust support, Ruth employed a patent attorney and a technical consultant who found a business partner - a company called Independence Products - to work with Oxleas.

Ruth again: “The pillow cases are now commercially available and Richard has negotiated a small royalty for the trust on any sales. We have them in stock for Oxleas’ patients. Those who’ve tried out our samples say they’re even better than the prototypes.”

Oxleas Chief Pharmacist, Carol Paton, points out another advantage: “Many clozapine patients take hyoscine for excess salivation” she told us. “It does help but it can make them drowsy and constipated. If the pillow cases keep them comfortable enough, perhaps they’ll be able to stop taking the hyoscine”.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Oxleas is in south east London and provides mental health and learning disability services in Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich boroughs, community health services in Bexley and Greenwich, and specialist services to Lewisham.

Independence Products is based at Independence House, Northern Court, Vernon Road, Basford, Nottingham NG6 0BJ. Tel: 0115 975 7254. Email: Samples@independenceproducts.co.uk

Clozapine is an atypical antipsychotic medicine and is used to help treat people with schizophrenia and similar conditions such as psychosis.

Photo Caption

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr Ruth McAllister, has dreamed up a pillow case that can help her patients get a better night's sleep.

Published on 17th June 2011 News Release