A quarter of a century ago, when our founders came up with a range of ideas for innovative products, little could they have known how one of their concepts would take off. Whilst the LimbO was originally designed with a specific use in mind (enabling those in a cast to shower and bathe), over the years the wider benefits, including cost savings to health services, have become clearer and helped fuel its global popularity. Today, more than two million LimbOs later, it is purchased around the world in a number of ways: either directly from our UK and USA teams and dedicated websites, or via our network of distributors. An increasing number of models are also available on UK prescription and this route to market highlights some hidden economic benefits we are keen to explore and quantify.
Benefit of LimbOs on Prescription
When the adult half-leg LimbO was first included on the NHS drug tariff in 2006 it was a clear acknowledgement by medical professionals of the benefits of effective waterproof protection, not just to the patient’s wound but also to the National Health Service’s budget.
The half leg LimbOs were selected because of the protection they offered to patients with lower leg venous ulcers or wounds, typically linked to diabetes. Keeping ulcers dry and clean helps to avoid further medical complications, supports infection control and can also reduce or remove the need for hospitalisation and additional treatment. Whilst the use of a LimbO is only part of that solution, it is easy to appreciate the cost saving a single half-leg LimbO can help deliver to the NHS.
Each year, thousands of patients need to have their cast, dressing or PICC line reapplied after they are compromised by becoming wet. As well as the costs associated with repeating the procedure, in extreme circumstances infection may set in or complications can emerge that result in additional treatment or hospitalisation. The cost of a one-night hospital stay (excluding the cost of any drugs or treatments) is currently estimated to be more than £400 per bed per day in the UK. For just a few pounds (£), our simple LimbO leads to better compliance from patients, quicker recovery and helps reduce the chance of hospitalisation and the potential extra costs to the NHS.
With the spotlight constantly on the NHS to achieve sustainable cost savings through better health education and a preventative approach the benefits of a more widespread use of waterproof protection are compelling.
Economic Benefits of Waterproof Protection
The overall annual demand for casting, IV treatment through a PICC line and wound care dressings continues to grow year on year and costs the NHS millions of pounds. Avoidable repetition of these procedures needs to be minimised through better waterproof protection and patient compliance. Thus, it is no wonder that since the introduction of the half leg model on to FP10 prescription, other LimbO models have been requested and successfully added to the drug tariff. Most recently, in 2021 our relatively new foot model has been included and warmly welcomed by nursing teams and podiatrists. Prior to that, the elbow LimbO model was added to assist patients undergoing long term IV treatment, such as chemotherapy, through a PICC line.
The increase in the number of LimbOs being prescribed brings an economic benefit to more patients: Including a LimbO as part of the standard treatment protocols creates a level playing field regardless of wealth. Whilst the LimbO is not an expensive product, it is a distress purchase and, therefore, subject to the factors that drive choice. For those with limited finances, or no disposable income, even a LimbO can be out of reach. This pushes patients to use low quality alternatives, the usual being sticky tape and a bag, or the free option – no cover/protection at all. As we highlighted previously without quality protection, the instances of redressing or recasting increase exponentially – resulting in a substantial cost to the NHS.
Whilst there is a relatively small cost per LimbO to the NHS for having them on prescription, this is outweighed by the avoided costs of redressing wounds or re-casting or hospital stays.
The Future – NHS SBS Framework
Further acknowledgement of the LimbO’s multiple benefits to the NHS and its patients is the recent approval of Thesis Technology as a supplier to the NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) procurement framework for 19 models. This 5 year contract reflects the appetite for extending the advantages of our product to all parts of the NHS and specifically patients at the point and time of care. We have also been invited to apply for upcoming NHS supply tenders. If successful this will see increased availability of the LimbO and closer involvement with the NHS in 2022 and beyond.
We are also undertaking careful research to determine the exact cost saving to the NHS of a LimbO for everyone where appropriate, as even taking into consideration the cost of purchasing the LimbOs, our initial estimates in terms of reduced hospitalisation and specialists’ time, point towards annual savings of seven or eight figures. And let’s not forget the original intended benefit, improving the quality of life for those undergoing treatment. Nothing beats a shower or bath when you are not feeling 100%.