Scoping an industry safety standard for robots in health and social care

Meet the Project Team

Christopher Harper

(Principal Investigator)

Senior Research Fellow at UWE, Bristol

Catherine Menon

Senior Lecturer in Software Engineering at the University of Hertfordshire

Kyle Harrington

Assistant Professor in Human Factors Engineering at the University of Nottingham

Michael Craven

Principal Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham

Carl MaCrae

Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Psychology at the University of Nottingham

Mentored by:

Prof. Praminda Caleb-Solly

Project Summary

This project will engage with healthcare regulators, practitioners, manufacturers, and end-user groups to develop a draft standard that is contextually relevant, generalizable across different assistive robot platforms and acceptable to user communities, ready for submission to standards agencies. 

Perhaps the most important feature of any robot is that it is safe. When we think abou robots that might help us with everyday tasks in our homes, this means that not only is the robot technically safe but also it must be safe in terms of the advice, assistance and care it provides. In particular, we want any care services that use robots to meet exactly the same standards that we would expect if humans alone were providing that care.

While there are British and international standards that define how any factory robot should be constructed and how it should operate in technical terms, there are no such standards related to the nature and quality of the care that it can help to provide.

In this project, we’re going to attempt to create this basic standard that all assistive robotics should meet. We’re going to start from how the UK Health and Social Care Act of 2012 defines care services, and the recommendations that NICE, the National Institute for Health

and Care Excellence, and the CQC, the Care Quality Commission, make about providing and assessing good quality care, and relate these definitions to the behaviours of robots. To help us do this, we’re going to focus on two particular types of robot: a robot that helps us with “activities of daily living” around the home, such as helping us to get dressed or to clean the house, and a robot to help us correctly take any medication we’ve been prescribed.

This will allow us to create a draft standard that we’re going to share with various experts, including health and care professionals, robot developers and potential end users of robots, so they can tell us whether or not it describes, on the one hand, acceptable care practices and, on the other, practical steps for creating “good” robots. Once we have a good, usable standard, we’ll make it available to all, and in this way, we can be more confident that any robot that is made to this standard will provide safe and effective care in our homes or clinics or hospitals.

Project Plan