Women In Innovation Success Stories: Jen Turner, JT Rehab Ltd, Yorkshire and the Humber
Speeding up patient recovery time through innovative medical devices
Delayed discharge costs the NHS around £820 million per year. Part of the problem is the length of time it can take to rehabilitate patients after a long hospital stay when their bodies have become deconditioned.
This is the challenge physiotherapist Jen Turner decided to tackle by setting up JT Rehab. The company’s first product – the S-Press – is a portable, therapeutic level leg strengthening device. It helps patients get back on their feet more quickly, enabling them to return home sooner, so that some of the strain on the NHS is relieved.
When she won a place on Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Programme, the team were just coming to the end of a clinical evaluation at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Trust. Jen needed support to move past the pre-revenue ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP) stage and into production.
From a personal angle, Jen was also looking for support herself as she transitioned from her career in the NHS, which still employs predominantly women, to the more male-dominated engineering, manufacturing, and business world.
“Moving from the NHS into the business world where I have on occasions been the only woman in the room has certainly been daunting and quite challenging for confidence maintenance,” she says.
Facing unexpected personal challenges
But there was a greater challenge to come – during her time on the programme, Jen was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. At a time when she wanted to be standing up in front of as many people as possible, talking about the S-Press, she found her confidence knocked by the debilitating whole-body tremor and brain fog associated with Parkinson’s Disease.
But one of the real benefits of the programme has been the chance to understand and recognise her own personal strength, becoming “stronger, more determined, and more knowledgeable in new areas than I ever thought possible.”
She says: “The path of any innovator is wild and chaotic. You need determination, tenacity, passion and support. Difficult personal circumstances can easily derail plans and personal strength, and it is hard to keep pushing forwards in these situations.”
“This year has been particularly hard personally, through bereavement and personal ill health, and there have been many times that I wanted to stop and get off this crazy rollercoaster. The reason I didn’t is because, having treated thousands of patients who are at one of the most vulnerable and desperate times of their lives, I believe that the simple concept of the S-Press will help change and improve so many lives, and that trumps my personal issues.”
Gaining approval and first NHS sales
With the support of her Innovate UK Edge mentors, industry partners, family and peers – not to mention the financial aspect of the Women in Innovation Award – Jen and her team have now developed the final market ready S-Press device, and launched a new website.
Since joining the Programme, they have received orders for purchase of 8 S-Press devices for a full Trust roll out at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Trust and follow-on 12-month evaluation in usual care, funded by the EMAHSN. Having shown positive health outcomes with the clinical evaluation, they are also finalising completion of the necessary regulatory approvals for class 1 medical device status.
The approvals and sales will be completed over the next 12 months, and the team have plans to grow their market within the NHS and enter the care home market. Beyond that, they hope to engage with distributors to access the international healthcare markets in the EU, USA and Asia.
“This award is a gateway to amazing opportunities,” Jen says. “The process of achieving these awards is without doubt challenging and hard. But when you win one of these awards you know that what you have is special. This is a powerful moment and makes your desire to succeed that much stronger.”