MEDICAL device and specialist shoemaker Peacock's Medical Group has renewed a major NHS contract as it expands its team and pushes for growth.
The family-owned firm, which for almost a century has been producing equipment such as leg braces and bespoke shoes for people such as diabetics who have lost the sensation in their feet, has renewed its contract with Airedale Hospital in Yorkshire.
Managing director Chris Peacock, who is the fourth generation of the family to head the Newcastle firm, said: “It is worth £300,000 a year for the next five years and if we do everything right, it will be for seven years.
“Most orthotic tenders are for five to seven years and being able to win or retain contracts gives long-term job security.
“We provide an orthotic consultant and we provide them with bespoke products. They are our fifth biggest customer.” The business, which has its design and manufacturing base at Benfield Business Park in Newcastle, counts long-standing customers Newcastle Hospitals – the Freeman and the RVI – and Southampton University Hospitals as its biggest clients.
Peacock said that the current cuts in public sector spending and changes to the NHS are having a mixed effect on demand for the company’s products.
He said: “It depends on the way that hospitals are funding or getting their orthotic spending.
“Some are trying to reduce it, while others are more entrepreneurial and are trying to bring in more people from the wider community to use the service.”
Peacocks currently has a staff of 165 and has maintained a turnover of around £11m for the last few years.
“Turnover rose, then has been flat for the last few years because of the wider cuts,” said Peacock. “On the whole, it’s positive.
“But it’s very, very competitive – people are quite happy to go in at extremely low prices.”
The company is now investing to grow the business. A new research and development (R&D) manager has been brought on board to work on projects using the hi-tech laser selective laser sintering machine, which was installed last year.
The machine, one of just a handful in the UK, means prototypes of new orthotic devices – equipment such as knee braces that supports injured muscles and tendons to do what they are supposed to – can be made much more quickly.
Peacock said: “We have been recruiting.
“We also have a new finance director and commercial sales manager, so we are really investing in the infrastructure of the business and our plans are for rapid growth.”
In addition, the company is involved in a long term project to diversify from its main market, using its craftsmen’s skills to design and make bespoke high-quality men’s dress shoes and golf shoes.