Please provide a company background including when it was established, where it is located, how many staff you employ etc.
Hospital Aids was established in 1981 by one lady who worked out of her garage in Brixworth Northamptonshire, producing a small amount of evacuation products for Northampton General Hospital. The company was purchased by the current owners in 2002 and is now based in Northampton.
The original product, the Ski Sheet was just one of those innovative ideas that enabled an industry to grow and develop from it.
In 2009 sister company Spectrum Healthcare (UK) Ltd was purchased to allow access to some additional evacuation devices which are imported from Australia.
In May of this year we added 2 further companies to our group, Marsden Fire Safety Ltd, which carries out fire risk assessments commercially, and sister company MFS Fire Extinguishers, which offers high quality fire extinguishers and other fire safety products and equipment.
All four companies operate from the same premises and employ 20 staff between them.
Please provide an overview of the products and services offered and areas of specialisation.
Hospital Aids, are primarily manufacturers of evacuation equipment designed to assist in the safe removal of hospital patients and care home premises, in the event of fire or other major emergency.
We work with healthcare professionals and organisations to develop evacuation products to cater for all types of individuals, including patients with specialist or complex care needs, young persons and bariatric individuals.
Our most well-known products manufactured on site are the Ski Sheet, which is located permanently and unobtrusively under the mattress and is instantly available in emergency situations. The Ski Pad, which has evolved from the Ski Sheet and is used in situations where normal mattress evacuation cannot be used safely, due to narrow corridors, fire escapes and staircases, and the Bariatric Evacmat, designed to enable the safe evacuation/movement of very large individuals.
Many of our products can be adapted to the requirements of individual premises and if, for example, you are looking for evacuation equipment for young children we can produce smaller versions or increase the padding for the safe and secure movement of people with conditions such as brittle bones.
Over the last few years we have made many additions to our product range to include moving and handling equipment, training aids and rescue equipment.
This year we have further expanded our existing range to include a suite of ergonomic seating solutions for use in environment such as in schools, production areas, workshops and in areas where hygiene is of great importance such as in hospitals, dental practices, laboratories and clean rooms.
What distinguishes us from most of our direct competitors is that we offer training and product demonstrations through a network of moving and handling consultants across the regions. We feel that the potential users of our products need to be fully trained in the correct use of evacuation equipment and it is essential for the safe movement of patients and residents that staff know how to use the devices that we supply with care and confidence.
How did you find out about emita and what benefits do you find the most valuable?
We originally found out about Emita through Medilink East Midlands, who are an organisation that we have worked closely with for about ten years. We have found Emita to be a very helpful networking organisation with useful subject matter at most of the monthly meetings. Our close affinity with our International Trade Adviser from UK Trade and Investment – Jane Waldron – has also helped to strengthen our ties with EMITA.
How long has your company been active in the export / import market and which countries do you currently trade with?
Hospital Aids has been actively exporting for over 10 years and importing since the purchase of sister company Spectrum Healthcare (UK) Ltd in 2009.
The evacuation equipment manufactured under the Hospital Aids “Ski” brand is currently exported to Republic of Ireland, Mainland Europe, Saudi Arabia, UAE, USA, Turkey, East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Qatar – where we fulfilled our biggest ever overseas order to date earlier this year.
What made you decide to expand your business overseas?
We were originally encouraged by Medilink East Midlands and given an introduction to UK Trade and Investment for our very first exhibition in 2005 which was Rehacare in Duesseldorf, Germany.
After that exhibition we saw a great opportunity to sell our products around the world particularly with evacuation legislation across Europe starting to come into line with the existing UK legislation (Disability Discrimination Act and Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005).
What has been your biggest exporting / importing challenge?
Probably the changing nature of exchange rates and the need to review pricing on a regular basis. Also the varying requirements for legalisation paperwork - in particular for countries such as Saudi Arabia and other Middle East territories. We have found that the local Chamber of Commerce and our own freight forwarders have been extremely helpful in resolving these paperwork issues.
What’s the most helpful piece of international trade advice you have received?
Ensure that you have fully researched any regulatory and import requirements to be able to sell your products into a particular market otherwise you can waste valuable time only to find that it is going to be a lot more difficult than you thought (or even unprofitable)! With some markets it is essential that you make market visits, attend exhibitions and meet potential distributors face to face.
What does the future hold? Any particular markets you are looking to target next?
With the rise in worldwide obesity having a major impact on those associated with primary care, the emergency services, mortuary and funeral services we plan to continue expanding our range of bariatric equipment and develop business relationships in the USA in particular, where we see a great market for such products.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE have proved to be good markets for us in the last few years. In 2016 we hope to expand further into these and surrounding territories through further market visits and our presence at the Arab Health Exhibition & Congress, held in Dubai in January, which is the largest healthcare exhibition & medical congress in the Middle East and second largest in the world.
We hope that our continued expansion into new international markets around the world, the growth of interest in bariatric products and the new additions to our product range will also help to further fuel the success of the Company.