Robert Affutu-Nartey

Managing Director, Prestige Rehabilitation Ltd

Q: What made you choose your career in orthopaedics?

A: I was always interested in a career in the medical profession and when West Ham failed to realise my potential as a star striker, I decided to train as an Orthotist!

Q: Why do you find your job rewarding?

A: Helping people to be more comfortable and ease their pain/disability is always rewarding. I once made a pair of shoes for a young lady about to be married and she had never been able to wear a nice pair of shoes due to the abnormality of her feet, she cried with happiness when she put her bespoke wedding shoes on. Also I recently supplied a cameraman working in Iraq with a Bledsoe Thruster OA knee brace. He had a medial compartment collapse and couldn’t run when in danger; I received a message back from him to say that he was now able to run and was also pain free.

Q: Does your role involve a lot of driving?

A: The Orthotic clinics I service together with all my other responsibilities as MD mean I have to cover about 1000 miles per week.

Q: Why when establishing Prestige as an Orthotic supplier did you choose Bledsoe as a partner?

A: Over the last few years we had been working with a large bracing manufacturer and grew their sales by over 100% within the territory. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the sales team, attending exhibitions and conferences, however having done all the hard work in establishing the business, the manufacturer decided to employ their own staff rather than utilise distributors and therefore we were surplus to requirements.
Obviously this was very disappointing and because of the success we had achieved and the relationships established with customers we wanted to continue what we had started. Therefore having looked very closely at the market and what was available we developed a strategy to find a manufacturer that had a full range of Orthotic products that was built to a very high quality standard and were well known.
On approaching Bledsoe I found that they met all the criteria and fortunately for us they were currently looking for a UK distributor. Since linking with Bledsoe we have built a good friendship and working relationship with Gary Bledsoe and his European agent Jo Schops. Both Gary and Jo have been extremely supportive and helpful and will both be attending the BAPO conference in March, with Gary giving the key note Orthotic lecture.

Q: Do you find it difficult to recruit suitable and qualified staff for your Orthotic workshop?

A: Experienced Orthotic technicians are extremely hard to come by, and I find myself in the happy position of having some of the best around. We also run an in-house training programme for experienced craftsman.

Q: What is the most efficient way of advertising your products?

A: We use many different advertising strategies, but we find the most effective way is through speaking to surgeons and other medical staff directly showing them samples of our product range and let the product and service sell itself. A lot of our business comes via word of mouth as a good and reliable supplier is hard to come by.

Q: How closely do you work with surgeons or with other medical device companies?

A: I am in daily contact with consultants and often have multi-disciplinary team clinics. In addition I attend sales meetings, orthopaedic meetings and new product and review meetings. And my partner Lorna says men can’t multitask!

Q: In your Orthotic clinics have you seen a major rise in any particular bracing tendencies?

A: The major change has been the introduction of compartment off-loading bracing. I am now seeing regularly in my clinics patients in their 30s-50s who are too young for a total knee replacement who have severe OA degeneration of either the medial or lateral compartments of their knees. Also with the aging population we are seeing many patients who are unfit for surgery but have chronic pain. I have been very fortunate to use several types of off-loading braces which have varying successes in these cases. In addition I recently came a cross a plantar fasciitis splint that can be worn in normal shoes which totally transformed my clinical treatment of patients with this condition.

Q: How do you go about developing new projects?

A: I listen to our customers comments or problems they are experiencing with regards to product and supply issues with other suppliers and then develop a project to rectify their dilemma and also bring more business to Prestige.

Q: Do you have any new products on the drawing board?

A: It would be a bit naive of me to detail the projects we are working on before we are ready to introduce them, but we are constantly looking to introduce new products to the market and together with Bledsoe who are extremely pro-active in this area we look forward to a very bright future.

Q: How is Prestige looking to expand further in the future?

A: We are about to embark on a major expansion of our sales team and due to our continued growth we are also looking for a new and larger distribution centre.