The future’s brighter for surgical patients, thanks to Heeley Surgical of Sheffield

Alan Heeley, Managing Director of Heeley Surgical in Chapeltown, holding a Self-Illuminated Breast R

Alan Heeley, Managing Director of Heeley Surgical in Chapeltown, holding a Self-Illuminated Breast Retractor. - Credit: Archant

A unique surgical instrument that could revolutionise medical procedures has been launched by Heeley Surgical of Sheffield.

Developed by managing director Alan Heeley, the novel self-illuminating retractor utilises fibre optic technology to remove the need for a separate light source during surgery and has already attracted significant interest from surgeons in the NHS, private health providers and hospitals across the Middle East.

The instrument is battery-operated and has an in-built LED light that lasts for up to four hours. It’s also a single-use, sterile item, cutting out the often lengthy waiting time needed to sterilise reusable instruments.

‘It can potentially cut waiting times for patients and bring savings for the NHS,’ said Alan. ‘Many medical procedures could benefit with a worldwide market in excess of 20 million.

‘I still get a buzz out of doing what I do after almost 50 years in the trade. That comes from knowing that products I’ve designed are helping surgeons improve the health and well being of patients.’

He first set up in business in 1977 with his wife Carol but was forced to sell up in 1999 when he needed three discs in his neck replaced as the result of a car accident.

The family firm was resurrected in 2008 at Thorncliffe Business Park, Chapeltown, where Alan and Carol were joined by their son James.

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Heeley Surgical now produces more than 7,000 different types of hand-held instruments, the majority of which are single use, made to the same design standards as reusable instruments, but from lower grade stainless steel.

It supplies more than 300 customers in the UK and overseas, ranging from large NHS trusts and primary care trusts to private hospitals and self-employed podiatrists.

Work is currently being carried out to expand the company’s offices and another family member – Alan and Carol’s daughter Louise – has recently joined the team. As sales of the retractor develop, other new products and jobs are expected to follow.

Alan is quick to thank Creative Sheffield – the city council’s business development organisation – for helping him achieve the successful launch of his revolutionary new instrument. It supported the company throughout the process, helping to protect the design and offering advice on growth strategy and marketing.

‘The backing of Creative Sheffield has been fantastic and without it we probably wouldn’t have got our patent application in,’ he said Philippa Hedley, Creative Sheffield’s sector growth manager in healthcare technologies, added: ‘Heeley Surgical offers a unique service based on Alan’s knowledge and expertise. While the retractor seems like a simple idea, no one has come up with it before and it goes to prove that we have people here in Sheffield who can be truly innovative.’

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