Mitch Preedy, Helping Hand Pressure Care
Mitch Preedy, Manager of Helping Hand Pressure Care

Helping Hand Pressure Care: Hitting the right spot

Helping Hand Pressure Care manufactures and supplies pressure care solutions from its base in Ledbury, Herefordshire, where it produces cushions in all sizes and shapes, ranging from paediatric through to bariatric. Over the past 25 years, the firm has become an established player within the pressure care industry. THIIS caught up with Mitch Preedy, Manager of Helping Hand Pressure Care, to discuss the company’s growth and plans…

Helping Hand Pressure Care was formed as its own division under the Helping Hand Company umbrella in 1996. At the time, The Helping Hand Company was well-known within the mobility industry for supplying daily living aids, but in just four years, and as the quality of its products improved and became more cost-effective, the firm became a strong supplier in the industry across Wheelchair Services, community stores and specialist retail both in the UK and Europe.

Mitch Preedy, Manager of Helping Hand Pressure Care, began working at The Helping Hand Company 15 years ago, where his role involved providing office support for two area sales managers within the Reablement Division, as it was then known. It was Mitch’s first taste of the mobility industry, and he was the contact for mobility retailers throughout the UK, dealing with aids for daily living (ADL).

Mitch recalls: “Within 18 months I was offered the role of Area Sales Manager for Pressure Care, which at the time seemed a bit of a black art and specialist area – which it clearly is – and every day something new is learnt.

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“Most of my customers were Wheelchair Services, which required carrying out assessments with professionals and clinicians daily so this is where my knowledge and passion grew massively.”

Then, nearly three years ago, Mitch was promoted to run the Pressure Care Division, where he has really found his niche.

“As much as I miss my customers and client contact, it’s great now that I have a really strong team. I can make decisions and changes alongside our Managing Director, R&D and Production to make a real difference.”

Helping Hand Pressure Care factory
Staff member Kevin gets to work creating a bespoke cushion

Products that hit the spot

Helping Hand Pressure Care specialises in pressure reducing products, from at-risk all the way up to the highest risk, in any size and in any shape to support postural needs from paediatric to bariatric.

Mitch says that, without a doubt, its Equazone product has been the biggest mover over the last 12 months.

“It is an immediate solution that’s cost-effective, really simple to set up and offers very high pressure reduction. The response across so many community contracts and dealers especially has been really encouraging.”

Another bestseller is the Airzone air cushion, which has been available for several years. Mitch explains: “The Airzone recently went under testing to increase its weight limit, to work in conjunction with an air sheet top layer and temperature regulation cover as standard to reduce moisture and heat, which is the common reason for skin breakdown.

“The Airzone has also been tested for a higher weight – a 40-stone limit to enter the bariatric market – which, alongside the air sheet and Coolover cover, reduces moisture and heat, which is the most common reason for skin breakdown.”

One of the firm’s biggest achievements is that it was one of the first companies worldwide to integrate technology within its cushions. Mitch explains how it works:

“It incorporates IQ sensing, which is a sensor that can be added to a cushion to encourage regular moment from users. As we know, a user that moves more is less vulnerable to skin breakdown.

“More recently, which our retailers seem to really have taken on board, is the use of the Indicator Cushion, which can assist with the issuing of the correct cushion for the user every single time.”

Helping Hand Pressure Care factory
An Equazone cushion is finished off in the factory

Cushioning the blows

With the challenges of a national pandemic, it has certainly been a mad year, says Mitch, but the firm seems to have come out of it really well.

“The firm has won more business and new contracts in the last 12 months than it has in the last eight years. The Equazone has been a key driver behind this, as well as the colour-coded range. “We have also seen a big increase in bariatric cushions, like the Airzone, so overall we have come out of 2020 very strong.”

This being said, there is no doubt that the pandemic has forced the firm to be more adaptive.

Says Mitch: “Unfortunately for my area sales managers, their contact with customers was heavily restricted, which meant they were furloughed for a period of time. Luckily, they were all really understanding and it seemed to make them that much hungrier over the last year.

“Working from home was introduced for the office staff back in March 2020, which was something I wasn’t a fan of personally! I was desperate to work in the office, however, some members of the team are performing better than ever working from home so although it was a challenge, the introduction of flexible working has been a huge positive.”

Throughout the organisation, from administration up to area sales managers on the road, staff have had to become more adaptive in the way they reach its customers. As Mitch explains, platforms like Teams and Zooms have helped the firm overcome some of the hurdles that the last year presented to them.

“The foam shortage due to the TDI issue [with supplies of one of its main ingredients running low] and the problems at the ports with raw materials could have really hit us hard but due to a lot of good planning and sourcing from our production team, we didn’t just meet our customer needs, we managed to pick up a large amount of new business from services who couldn’t source their usual products.”

It helps that as a British manufacturer, Helping Hand Pressure Care is in quite a strong position when there have been shipping delays, whereas other companies may be waiting for products or parts to be delivered to meet customers’ needs.

Mitch adds: “Obviously we experience some hiccups along the way but we have managed to source all materials and components needed to manufacture our products here in Ledbury and meet our customers’ needs and new customers coming on board.”

The Helping Hand Pressure Care Team
The Helping Hand Pressure Care Team

Opportunities ahead

This year, Mitch says that the firm is looking forward to opening up to its customers again, continuing its high standards of customer service, and of course, growing its product ranges.

“The Equazone family will be growing and our next steps into the intelligent/interactive cushions aren’t far away along with a few in-depth studies being carried out on measured outcomes.

“We’re also actively seeking specialist retailers that want to take onboard our pressure care range.”

He adds: “The two routes that our dealers seem to take on board pretty quickly are firstly the Equazone, as they can now offer a very high risk air cushion at a great price but no hassle in set ups.

“The second is the use of Indicator Cushion against our existing colour coded range. It was kindly awarded the ‘Retailers’ Choice’ of the month by Alastair Gibbs at TPG DisableAids in THIIS Magazine a few months ago.”

Mitch says that any retailers with teams on the road, or a showroom set up, can have an Indicator Cushion for free so that they can identify the correct cushion for the user within minutes.

He adds: “A huge amount of time and research has gone into developing the Indicator Cushion so we can confirm it performs effectively, identifying the user’s most prominent/bony area and recommending the most relevant cushion. “It gives that extra bit of confidence and expertise within the sales and issuing process for pressure cushions.”

For the rest of this year, the firm is getting the ball rolling with some exciting new product launches.

“We’ve got at least two new products currently in R&D; new technologies to take pressure care to a whole new level – providing solutions and support in avoiding skin breakdown and not just be solely reliant on pressure cushions.

“Our key focus in the market is to continue to maintain our current contracts but look for opportunities of growth in the specialist retail market.”

www.hhpressurecare.co.uk

Helping Hand Pressure Care factory
The company heavily invests in green energy to power its factory
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