The Wokingham Paper

Lower Earley medical company carries out vital work during pandemic

“IT’S OUR normal business, we’re just coming to work.”

That’s the upbeat message from the managing director of a Lower Earley company supplying vital medical equipment that has kept calm and carried on throughout the pandemic

Lorne Labs specialises in blood transfusion items, including platelet incubators and blood bank fridges.

While some businesses had to furlough staff, the 15 people who work from Lorne Labs’ base in Daneshill had to continue in the midst of the national lockdown, supplying essential products to the front line andproviding NHS Blood and Transplant facilities across the UK with an uninterrupted supply of blood reagents.

Ian John, the company’s managing director, said that his team have worked tirelessly to ensure that Covid-19 didn’t interrupt the care of people in need of emergency blood transfusions.

“We had to tell staff that they’d got to come to work,” he said. “Some people were nefarious to begin with, but we spoke openly about how we’d deal with (making the workplace safe). It’s become the norm for us.

“They came to accept it quickly: we’re not like a factory, we’re not on top of each other.

“We had to put some rules in place for example, walking down corridors and ensuring there was plenty of hand sanitiser.”

Measures in place included an ample supply of PPE to all staff, and ensuring that the laboratory’s ventilation and air con system was keeping the air clean and free for any airborne viruses.

Preparations in place

He felt that this work and the existing protocols in place paid dividends.

The company also had a stockpile of production supplies ready for the rainy day that was Covid-19.

“We had plenty of raw materials,” Mr John said. “We always carry a significant supply for events you can’t really foretell.”

The company’s market includes the NHS, but also overseas. And with different countries operating lockdown at different times, this also put some pressure on the team.

“There was initially a drop-off in demand from UK hospitals, understandably so because they had a focus on Covid,” Mr John said.

Creating an international supply

But Lorne Labs has carried on throughout, supplying health services around the world.

“When the planes were down, it was a challenge to get to some countries at times. We’ve been there when people needed it.

“To be honest, our overall business have been maintained at the level where we thought we’d be. We’ve had our ups and downs – currently very little business to South America, for example, as they are behind us in the flow of coronavirus.”

The company has been helped throughout with its network of freight forwarders, couriers and local distributors across all continents.

Mr John said that thanks to relationships with trusted long term partners to send and receive shipments and make sure they reach their destinations during a crisis, delays were rare and competition for shipping slots less severe than many other manufacturers.

“Being close to Heathrow is helpful under the circumstances,” he said.

What next?

Now, their focus is on what happens next: the strain on the NHS has been relaxed as a result of the fall in Covid-19 cases, but hospitals are starting to perform non-essential surgeries again.

The company will be ready, with Mr John saying that they have enough product available to scale up to a level that fully supports the needs of the UK healthcare sector.

“We’ve already dealt with people going back to work, we have the rules in place and were comfortable with that,” he pledged.

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