A BBI

A report detailing new ideas and inventions generated by the 1.3 million people who work in the UK's National Health Service (NHS) was unveiled by the service in late December.

In the 12 months up to March of last year, NHS Innovations, which is made up of a network of regional innovation centers known as NHS Innovations Hubs, handled nearly 500 new ideas brought to them by NHS staff. Of these, 100 new ideas were then selected for further development, and the NHS Innovations Hubs helped broker licenses for 24 of them. Patients are now benefiting from the products in use in the NHS.

The new inventions include:

Child Imaging Chair. To obtain good quality images during kidney scans, children must be as still as possible. This specially designed chair ensures children do not move around so that accurate images can be obtained. The Imaging Chair was the idea of a medical physicist at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals, NHS Trust.

X-Ray needle placement manikin. This manikin mimics the human body in the feel and position of internal organs and bones. It is used in training to administer complicated epidural pain relief that involves placing needles into the spine and skull. This idea came from a consultant anesthetist at Salford Royal Hospitals, NHS Trust.

E-PAQ, an electronic pelvic floor symptoms assessment questionnaire. Some medical conditions can be difficult for patients to discuss freely with their doctor, which can lead to uninformed consultations, poor diagnosis and poor condition management. This electronic patient questionnaire is completed in a private area of the waiting room, and the doctor can see a printed analysis before the consultation. This idea came from a consultant surgeon at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Pupilometer. A portable eye measuring device that paramedics can use at accidents sites to measure the size and responsiveness of the pupils of head injury victims. It allows a quick and accurate assessment of the possible extent of their injuries. This idea was that of a senior medical technologist at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust.

Nine NHS Innovations Hubs have been established based on the nine English Regional Development Agencies. Each serves the NHS organizations in their area, helping NHS Trusts and Primary Care Trusts to develop their understanding of innovation, identify those new ideas which need development, and advise on licensing the best products to the industry. The products can then be accessed by the NHS and other healthcare markets.

Dr. Tony Bates, NHS intellectual property advisor and founder of NHS Innovations said, "Until the Hubs were created, an employee with an exciting innovation had nowhere to go. Good ideas leaked out, often going abroad, and any benefits to the inventor, the NHS and UK industry were lost. The clinician, technician or researcher can come up with discoveries [that] often have the potential to develop into new products or innovations in service delivery. NHS staff can be at the forefront of invention."

Health Minister Lord Warner said, "Our aim is to create an environment in the NHS in which innovation is at the heart of our business. Establishing NHS Innovations Hubs was a major first step in recognizing the creative potential that lies within the NHS and enabling staff to get their ideas accepted [while] protecting intellectual property rights."

Integra acquires French ortho firm

Integra LifeSciences Holdings (Plainsboro, New Jersey) reported that it has acquired the Newdeal (Lyon, France) group of companies, makers of specialty implants and instruments for foot and ankle surgery, for EUR 39.5 million (about $53 million) in cash, subject to certain adjustments.

Newdeal's senior management team, with more than 50 years of cumulative experience in the orthopedics device industry, has joined the leadership team at Integra. The company name will remain unchanged.

Its products include a wide range of products for the forefoot, the mid-foot and the hind foot, including the Bold Screw, Hallu-Fix plate system and the Hintegra total ankle prosthesis. The current products address a worldwide market valued at about $500 million.

The French firm sells its products through a direct sales force in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and through distributors in more than 30 countries, including the U.S. and Canada.

Newdeal's target physicians include orthopedic surgeons specializing in injuries of the foot, ankle and extremities, as well as podiatric surgeons.

Stuart Essig, Integra's president and CEO, said the deal "will supplement our direct sales force in Europe and increase revenues outside the U.S." He added that his company expects to benefit from synergies between Newdeal's reconstructive foot and ankle fixation products and Integra's regenerative products, such as the Integra Dermal Regeneration Template, and the Integra bi-layer and single-layer matrix wound dressings, NeuraGen and NeuraWrap, which are used in the treatment of chronic and traumatic wounds of the foot and ankle.

"We will work to integrate Newdeal into Integra so that the combined business can maximize these revenue synergies," Essig said.

Newdeal outsources all of the manufacturing, packaging and sterilization of its products. The company, which has 38 employees, has a pipeline of products under development for the continued expansion of its product offerings.

Eric Fourcault, president and CEO of Newdeal, said, "We look forward to expanding our business within Integra, and combining our experience in specialty orthopedic implants with Integra's portfolio of tissue-engineered products. Together we will be able to offer a broad package of solutions to orthopedic, reconstructive and podiatric surgeons."

Treatment centers cut waiting times

A new report published last month by UK Health Secretary John Reid says that more than 120,000 patients have been treated since the start of the government's pioneering treatment center program, at a rate as much as eight times faster than traditional National Health Service providers.

More than 10,000 of those patients were treated at "hospitals on wheels," the mobile cataract surgery units that were put into operation last February. Those surgical treatment centers travel around the country, allowing waiting lists for cataract procedures in the areas which they visit to be reduced dramatically.

The mobile cataract treatment centers are run by Netcare, an independent provider, and have been touring the country since February 2004.

The treatment center program was launched in April 2002 as a key part of the government's push to cut surgical waiting times and introduce choice for patients. Treatment centers are streamlined units that provide fast, pre-booked surgery and diagnostic tests for patients. They often concentrate on procedures with the highest historic waiting times for treatment, including orthopedics and ophthalmology. Since 2002, 29 NHS-operated treatment centers have opened, spread across England. Another 17 are in development, most of which will be open by this summer.

Reid said the success of the program has helped contribute to a "massive fall" in the numbers of people waiting for operations. Figures published last week show the lowest number of people on the waiting list as of the end of November, 306 patients had been waiting more than nine months, a decline of 33,000 from the same period of 2003 since comparable data was first collected in September 1987. The overall waiting list for hospital admissions stood at 844,000, a decline of 13,000 from the October figure.

Waiting times for cataract patients are now being slashed to a maximum of three months a target reached four years ahead of schedule.

The report is seen as paving the way for the government's announcement of the second wave of procurement due later this year by showcasing to patients, as well as to prospective bidders, the standard of care and fast service available in treatment centers.

Reid said, "Treatment centers play an important role in speeding up access to treatment for patients and improving quality of care and patients' experience. This is shown by the mobile cataract chain treating 10,000 patients in less than 11 months operating at a rate almost eight times faster than traditional NHS services."

He said the higher procedure rate is achievable "because the units are able to concentrate on a single procedure in a modern, purpose-built unit."

The report said the mobile cataract units complete about 37 cataract operations a day, compared to about five a day on average by standard NHS providers.

The treatment centers are developing new staff roles, including peri-operative specialist practitioners, advanced nurse practitioners/advisers and health care assistant technicians in radiology, ophthalmology and surgery.

They are helping the government to offer all cataract patients the choice of at least two providers when they are told they need an operation. By this December, patients in England will be offered a choice of four to five providers at the point that their general practitioner decides such treatment is necessary. As of December 2008, patients will be offered a free choice of providers.

Glaucoma treatment trial under way

Coronado Industries (Fountain Hills, Arizona) reported that enrollment and patient treatment have begun at five Italian glaucoma centers involved in a clinical study of its Pneumatic Trabeculoplasty (PNT) device and procedure. PNT offers what Coronado describes as "a cost-effective alternative to surgery and multiple pharmaceutical agents" for the treatment of glaucoma.

The company's wholly owned subsidiary, Ophthalmic International, said the study being coordinated by Eupharmed, its Italian distribution partner involves about 120 patients not adequately controlled on current pharmaceutical therapies.

The study and protocol were designed to fulfill some of the requirements needed for approval by the FDA in the U.S. The data generated during the study also will provide additional information for doctors and patients on the use of PNT in the treatment of primary open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension.

G. Richard Smith, president of Coronado Industries, said, "The early results from Italy are in line with the results we have reported previously. As more physicians and patients become aware of PNT, the demand will grow rapidly."

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