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All things Pharma

Naidex ’09 – Birmingham NEC, 28–30 April 2009

Assistive technologies are a growing segment of the UK healthcare market, and one in which expectations of quality and patient choice are increasing. There are several reasons for this: an ageing population; the shift of healthcare into the community; the possibilities opened up by wireless healthcare technologies; and the prevalence of more inclusive attitudes towards disability.

Naidex, the UK’s biggest exhibition for assistive technologies, is an inclusive event that promotes empowerment and choice for disabled people and their families and carers. From a space for children using wheelchairs to enjoy sport to a ‘show home’ demonstrator of stylish assisted living, Naidex engages with disabled people as active consumers and contenders. It presents a lively and competitive environment for suppliers to engage with end users, carers, teachers and healthcare professionals.

Moving on up

Naidex ’09 was the largest and best-attended ever, with 353 exhibitors and 11,000 visitors over the three days, despite the economic climate. Event Manager Liz Virgo said: “The initial feedback has been very positive, with 70% of exhibitors already confirming their attendance at Naidex 2010.”

The event was formally opened by swimmer David Roberts, winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals. He later commented: “I had absolutely no idea how massive this event was. My girlfriend and I both have disabilities, and I will certainly be bringing her along next year.”

Visitors and exhibitors at Naidex ’09 were able to keep up to date with the latest developments at the event in ‘real time’, using the Twitter micro-blogging service. Updates were displayed on a profile page and delivered to users who were following the event.

Retail and other therapies

The BHTA Conference on the first day was well attended by trade visitors. This year’s topic was ‘Retail… the road to recovery?’ A panel of suppliers debated whether the involvement of major retailers, such as Argos and Homebase, in the assistive technologies market was good or bad news for the industry.

The advantages of ‘mainstreaming’ disability products (improving the access to them of end users and their relatives) were set against the disadvantages of losing the specialist retailer (reducing the level of retailer expertise, possibly reducing market access for SMEs).

A teacher and mobility service user later commented to On Target that major retail chains might well offer more choice and better customer service than specialist mobility shops, which were inclined to “prescribe rather than advise”. Clearly, this is a complex issue for suppliers and end users.

Innovation on display

Visitors were able to see over 100 new products on posters in the New Product Gallery, and to vote for their favourite new product. Some of these products were demonstrated in a New Product Demonstration Zone.

After two days of voting, the New Product of the Year Award went to the Volker Vis-à-Vis Care Bed from Bakare Beds Ltd – an innovative product whose design facilitates independent movement by the user.

N & C Phlexicare Ltd came second with the FreeSpace, an inclusive shower area that can be used by the whole family. Amadeus International came third with the 360 EasySip, a spill-proof drinking vessel.

More innovative products were on display at the Living Spaces ‘show home’ demonstrator (see our feature on page xx).

May the force be with you

Dave Prowse, Darth Vader from Star Wars, made a special appearance at the KideQuip zone on the third day. He announced the winning tickets of the show’s visitor raffle, and donated the top prize: a master replica Star Wars light sabre. Dave also signed autographs in exchange for donations to the Association of Wheelchair Children, a charity of which he is a patron.

The KideQuip zone is dedicated to children’s equipment and services. This year, the Association of Wheelchair Children organised a ‘Hot Wheels’ feature with free training sessions for young wheelchair users on skills such as road safety.

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