Influence is growing in surgical sector

© Ben Rector - Pictured at the Queen’s Awards (from left to right) are James Urie, Sales and Marketing Director; Bob Urie, founder of Mediplus; Sir Henry Aubrey Fletcher, The Lord-Lieutenant for Buckinghamshire and Emma Gray, the company’s Managing Director
© Ben Rector - Pictured at the Queen’s Awards (from left to right) are James Urie, Sales and Marketing Director; Bob Urie, founder of Mediplus; Sir Henry Aubrey Fletcher, The Lord-Lieutenant for Buckinghamshire and Emma Gray, the company’s Managing Director

Mediplus has been rewarded for its medical devices that are helping patients and the NHS

 

By Mike Cowley

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When Bob Urie was made redundant after the medical device company for which he worked was sold to a multinational back in 1986, he vowed this would never happen to him again.

So he set up on his own company, Mediplus, based on an idea he had been considering while working in his previous role and this led to him developing his initial breakthrough medical product – the first disposable catheters for urodynamics.

Ever since Mediplus has come up with an innovation for the safety and comfort of patients on average every 18 months and this ingenuity has now won formal recognition in that it has received the Queen’s Award for Innovation. The award is for the S-Cath™ System, a unique device designed to enable a clinician to safely place a long-term urinary drainage catheter directly into the bladder via the stomach wall. Whereas the procedure was not new, the approach was and eliminated previous problems of potential bladder damage which had resulted in a 2% mortality rate and 19% of complications.

Using a patented three-stage guide wire, the S-Cath™ System only requires a local anaesthetic and takes just 27 minutes in out-patients compared with the previous method which saw a patient in hospital for two and a half days. This means it has cut the cost to the NHS by 95%.

As such, it has been winning friends and influencing people in the surgical community.

“Having used it I would prefer it over all of the alternatives and we have switched over to using it,” says Prof Christopher Chapple, BSc, MD, FRCS (Urol), FEBU of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield.

With a potential market for the device estimated at £5m in the UK and £50 million in the US, the S-Cath™ System is yet another chapter in the success story for Mediplus.

Every year since it was founded three decades ago, the company has seen growth – from a turnover of £18,000 in year one to £6.5m today. And its outstanding track record in exports won its previous Queen’s Award back in 2013.

Whereas Mediplus Chairman Bob Urie was originally the company’s sole employee, today it employs 50 people and has two additional family members on the management team. Emma Gray, Bob’s daughter, is now Managing Director while his son James is Sales and Marketing Director. Emma had previously worked as an accountant for many years before coming on board, and James had a similar lengthy spell outside the family firm working in RFID technology, normally associated with Oyster Cards, but now being introduced into the medical field.

However it may come as a surprise to learn that Bob Urie’s degree is in Industrial Chemistry and he has no medical qualifications. So why the success in medical devices?

“Doctors are normally very good at what they do but can occasionally be somewhat restricted,” says Bob Urie.

“So when you get someone standing next to them and saying ‘why do you do it that way?’ this can lead to product ideas that not only help patients but reduce costs to the NHS”.