Surgical innovation in the NHS: an interview with Paul Hayes

30 May 2023 4min read

Team Consulting

Company update

The world of surgery has seen a host of new innovations in recent years. Surgical robots are revolutionising how we approach a variety of procedures, while new medical devices and surgical tools are constantly being developed to improve patient outcomes. We spoke to Paul Hayes, MedTech innovator and former vascular surgeon in the NHS, to discuss the opportunities and challenges for surgical innovation.

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Paul Hayes worked as a consultant vascular surgeon at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for 14 years, having previously trained at Aberdeen and Leicester. Over the years he has spent a lot of time doing near patient research, working with many different medical devices for applications from wound care to aortic aneurysms. More recently, he has been involved in two haemostat start-ups and is now Chief Medical Officer for both Selentus Science and Pedra Technology, working on haemostat and skin perfusion technologies respectively.

How are surgical innovations impacting the NHS?

“Generally, innovation is a great thing for patients and the healthcare system, however a large number of new technologies tend to drive healthcare costs upwards. You can develop advanced solutions to problems by throwing a lot of money at them, however often the most elegant solutions are simpler and cheaper. This is something my company, Selentus, has been focused on, driving the costs of new innovations down to make them more practical for the NHS to adopt.”

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What are some of the common pitfalls medical device
start-ups face?

“A big issue is going too far along the development process without sense checking their idea with their end users. Start-ups are often founded by someone with a single solution to a problem, which they then spend a lot of time developing internally. Sometimes start-ups get a long way through the development process before actually checking that their idea is the best product to bring to market. Very rarely have I seen MedTech companies sit down with stakeholders early on and mind map
their approach.”

What support is available for a surgeon looking to develop a new technology?

“There are lots of surgeons out there with lots of good ideas, however there’s often a gap in their knowledge of how to actually get going. That’s why speaking with consultancies is really useful, to give people a helping hand in progressing their development. The health service itself has also become a lot better at encouraging new technologies, with the help of organisations like the Health Tech Enterprise, NHS Innovation Accelerator and similar innovation hubs.”

What is your best piece of advice for a MedTech start-up?

“One of the key things to understand is the limits of your own understanding, and to get experts in the field involved early on. You often won’t succeed with your first idea, unless you’re very lucky, so it’s important to persevere. If an idea looks like it’s not going to work, accept that and find a different idea to focus on. That’s where having outside input is particularly useful. As a specialist in an area, you can become very tunnel-visioned about the process and believe in a solution, however an expert may tell you, yes you can make it, but it will be too expensive to sell, or there’s no market for it. The other thing I’ve seen in some start-ups is the view that regulatory approval is the end of the line. This is definitely not the case. You’ve got to have a plan to get to market as well.”

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Paul will be returning to Team Consulting this June for our clinical innovation event, where our experts will be helping clinician innovators address their clinical challenges through developing MedTech concepts. Sign up to our newsletter to hear about our other upcoming events and stay up to date with our latest surgical news.

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