Pictured: Members of SRA with his Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester (centre) and surgeon Jonathan Frappell third from the right in the front row
An innovative company in South Devon has received royal recognition for the second time in three years. His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester, visited SRA Developments on Monday 2nd July, at their headquarters in Ashburton, with the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, Mr Eric Dancer.
The visit focused on the groundbreaking innovations being carried out in the Devon countryside and the challenges of taking pioneering ideas from the drawing board to operating theatres around the world.
The design and manufacturing company scooped one of the most sought-after accolades in the country in April 2010, the prestigious Queen’s Award, for a state-of-the-art surgical instrument. The ultrasonic scalpel, known as LOTUS, has helped thousands of patients recover more quickly from surgery, thanks to its ability to cut and seal tissue very quickly, keeping blood loss to a minimum.
Managing Director, Dr Mike Young, said: “Both his Royal Highness and the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, were intrigued how a company like SRA Developments, with only 55 employees in rural Devon, manages to compete with the huge multi-national corporations. We explained that it is an uphill battle, but that the combination of innovative intellectual property, a dedicated and tenacious workforce and close working relationships with South West surgeons make it possible.”
Mr Jonathan Frappell, Consultant Gynaecologist at Derriford Hospital, outlined to the Duke the advantages of using equipment like Lotus in keyhole surgery procedures: “By using Lotus in our laparoscopic surgeries we are able to coagulate and cut tissue, maintain a clear field of vision and minimize blood loss. I explained to the Duke that thanks to these innovations we have a high percentage of patients who are able to go home the same day as their surgery.”
Pictured: Surgeon Jonathan Frappell with the lotus scalpel
Upper Gastro-Intestinal Surgeon, Mr Paul Peyser, Consultant at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, showed the Duke surgical footage of a live webcast that he had carried out with Lotus: “I explained to the Duke how we had beamed live surgery from the Royal Cornwall Hospital to 30 countries via the internet, sharing our surgical techniques and experiences. Both Jonathan Frappell and I also highlighted how important it is for surgeons to work closely with medical device companies like SRA Developments, giving feedback on ergonomics and clinical considerations.”
SRA Technical Director, Dr Steve Young, who demonstrated the company’s range of surgical products to the Duke, said: “We highlighted to the Duke the many technical challenges that we face when developing high-tech surgical equipment. It can all start with a ‘eureka moment’, but then the research, design and development stages all take time and great cost. By working closely with surgeons we can quickly gauge which ideas are worth pursuing. By understanding the requirements of surgeons and patients, we can design high-performance, ergonomic, cost-saving devices for the NHS and international markets.”
The LOTUS scalpel, which is the used in many surgical specialties including upper and lower gastro-intestinal procedures and gynaecology, is the latest in a line of ultrasonic devices made by SRA Developments. Other products include the OSCAR cement removal system used in revision hip surgery and soft-tissue repair equipment for physiotherapy.