Fashion graduate creates sustainable and functional hospital gown to improve patient experience

24 April 2024

Olivia Burns’ patient wear business Hypoplas inspired by own patient experience in childhood

A new patient wear brand which features sustainable, functional, and cost-effective hospital gowns and recovery wear to improve patient experience has been developed by a graduate from the University’s Manchester Fashion Institute.

Since graduating from BA (Hons) Fashion and Business Management in 2023, Olivia Burns has been developing her business Hypoplas, an innovative patient wear brand that creates comfortable and stylish clothing for patients.

Hypoplas, which is working in collaboration with Birmingham Children’s Hospital, aims to make the recovery process more comfortable and convenient for patients through the creation of sustainable hospital wear that is both functional and modern.

Burns was born with a congenital heart condition called hypoplastic left-hearted syndrome and was the 13th patient in the NHS to undergo lifesaving treatment which included three open heart surgeries alongside several other procedures during her childhood.

Drawing from her own patient experience of wearing traditional hospital gowns that were undignified, impractical, and uncomfortable, Burns was inspired to develop the Inversus gown and recovery wear range to improve patient journey from pre-op to recuperation.

Burns said: “I undertook research with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust which revealed that traditional hospital gowns were inefficient for both patients and clinicians. We found many hospitals were ‘double gowning’ where patients wear two gowns at once with one reversed to preserve modesty, meaning double the laundry and using double the carbon. We also found a lot of gowns are thrown into textile waste after being cut in emergency medical procedures.

“To address this problem, I’ve designed a hospital gown that preserves the modesty of patients, is sustainable, and cost-effective for healthcare organisations alongside a recovery range for patients to allow them to feel more confident and comfortable during and after their procedures.”

Olivia Burns Fashion Institute graduate
Drawing from her own patient experience Olivia Burns was inspired to develop the Inversus gown and recovery wear range to improve patient experience

The Inversus hospital gown differs to a traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ gown as it wraps around the whole body to preserve the modesty of patients, and is reversable with a deep V-neck design allowing easy access from the front and back.

Hypoplas also plans to offer a recondition clinic where Velcro fastenings can be replaced, boosting the lifespan of the gown, and improving textile circularity. 

Burns was recently named the Medilink North of England ‘One to Watch’, has been accepted onto the NHS Patient Entrepreneur Programme where she will receive support through mentoring to develop the gown on a national level, and received funding from Innovate UK to help launch, develop, and scale the business.

She has also been a recipient of a Santander Universities UK Entrepreneur Award, which enables students and graduates to develop their entrepreneurial skills through start-up grants.

Most recently, Burns has launched her business and is working in collaboration with Birmingham Children’s Hospital – the hospital where she was first treated – to carry out evaluations of the gown with a view to the hospital implementing these in the future.

Amanda Baugh, Head of Innovation at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are so proud of Olivia in creating a company that is focussed on making things better for other patients. As a female Innovator she is an inspiration to others and we think other young entrepreneurs will be keen to follow in Olivia’s footsteps.”

Burns credits her time studying at Manchester Met in helping her to set up her business and develop it to where it is today which included valuable support from both Manchester Fashion Institute and Innospace, the University’s start-up incubator.

Sam Chandrasekara, Senior Lecturer in Fashion Business at Manchester Met, said: “Olivia embodies the spirit of innovation, tenacity, and resilience that we nurture and deeply value through our fashion business and management degree course. I’ve had the privilege of watching Olivia evolve from a passionate fashion student into a healthcare sector entrepreneur which is a testament to the real-world impact, social responsibility, and confidence we instil in our students.

“Through Hypoplas, Olivia has turned her challenges into a pioneering business model which sets new standards in patient wear. Her journey showcases the power of commitment, creativity, and a deep understanding of user needs, leading to meaningful advancements in the field. We are immensely proud of Olivia’s pursuit of her ambitions and her achievements.”

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