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An Interview with Neomi Bennett

February 10, 2015

Neoni Bennet

First and foremost, Neomi Bennett is a nurse. She is rather a special nurse, however. Not only did she invent the Neo-Slip, a multi-award-wining anti-embolism stocking aid, she is also Chief Executive Officer of the company she set up to manufacture and distribute her brainchild. Despite that, nursing is still where her heart is. “I love being a nurse” she says, “and I love delivering patient care”. And so that she can do just that, she makes sure she finds time in her increasingly busy schedule to continue working regular bank shifts.

Neomi has always been a problem-solver. Before she started her nurse training at the University of Kingston-Upon-Thames in 2008, she spent seven years as a health care assistant. It was while working in an Accident and Emergency department that she noticed there were no clocks in the cubicles. “It was frustrating for the patients” she says “because they might have no way of knowing what time it was, and for the nurses too, because often they were unable to measure the respiratory rate of the patient if their personal fob watch developed a problem”. Enlisting help of the League of Friends, Neomi launched a successful campaign to get clocks installed.

The origins of the Neo-Slip lie in the second year of her training. Set an assignment on assessing and addressing a risk in clinical practice, Neomi was appalled to learn that in the UK alone, as many as 25,000 people a year may be dying from venous thromboembolism associated with hospitalisation. The simple recourse of wearing anti-embolic stockings could reduce this figure, but difficulties in putting them on mean patients are often non-compliant.

It’s also a problem that continues after discharge. Out on placement, Neomi discovered that many older people in the community were not wearing their anti-embolic stockings either. The last straw came when she visited a patient who was using them as curtain ties. “I don’t want to waste them” the patient confided “but I can’t wear them, because I can’t get them on”.

I thought: ‘That’s it’” says Neomi. “I have to do something.”

What she came up with was the Neo-Slip: a low friction style sock that comes in three colour-coded sizes and is made from smooth, lubricating material. Patients slip it onto their foot before putting on the stocking, which then slides over it easily and comfortably. When fitting is complete, Neo-Slip is gently pulled out through the stocking’s open toe. Neomi is aware that nurses sometimes use plastic bags or even the stockings’ cellophane packaging in a similar way – but this is definitely not recommended.

“Packaging isn’t designed to be used in this way” explains Neomi “and it’s not fit for purpose. Depending on how the packets have been stored before opening, they may have come into contact with allergens that staff are unaware of. Plus, using packaging as an aid is not professional. It’s like moving patients with bed sheets instead of slide sheets”.

The idea behind Neo-Slip was developed further after it won an enterprise competition at Neomi’s university. She has also received funding and practical advice from UnLtd, the UK’s leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs. It’s been a steep learning curve: Neomi has had to get to grips with business planning, invoicing, marketing and laws surrounding intellectual property rights, to name but a few.

The product itself, which started life with Neomi literally looking round local fabric shops for likely materials, and running up prototypes on a sewing machine at home to present to focus groups, is now produced at a factory in Nottingham. “Keeping manufacture in the UK was important to me” she says. “I wanted to support high-quality British industry and high-quality British workers”.

The future certainly looks promising. Since she started selling Neo-Slip in 2013, Neomi has taken on employees and her product has gained the prestigious International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) certificate of quality. Additionally, recent approval from the Medicines and Health Care Products Regulatory Agency should pave the way for wider uptake of Neo-Slip throughout the NHS. Her website also contains numerous glowing testimonials from both staff and patients – with a heartfelt ‘Get these in every hospital NOW!!!!!’ just about summing up the consensus view.

Throughout all this though, Neomi has one clear focus: better patient care. And to any nurse reading this who thinks they might have a great idea of their own, she says “don’t think that starting a business is out of your reach. Many of the skills my nurse education gave me – doing presentations, writing plans – were directly transferable. I’d advise you to talk about your idea to colleagues and friends and see what they think! If you’re a student, your university can be a source of assistance, and if not, try the British Library. Their resident inventor, Mark Sheahan, can advise and guide you on the best way to protect an idea. I’m happy for nurses to contact me with their ideas too”.

As for Neomi, following the success of Neo-Slip, she is now working on a new project. At the moment, it remains tightly under wraps, “but” she promises, “it is going to revolutionise an aspect of hospital care”. After talking to this dynamic and impressive woman, nobody would bet on it not doing exactly that. She is living proof that nurses really do come in many guises.

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5 Comments
  1. Michelle Robinson permalink

    Neomi is an inspiration to us all it goes to show that a good idea can develop into a life changing journey. Well done and good luck with your new project. Keep us posted…..

  2. Dear Michelle, thanks for your lovely comment. I will keep you updated 🙂

  3. I must admit its a great idea. I work on a surgical ward and its a nightmare getting the stockings on especially larger patients.

  4. Latasha Winford permalink

    Really great! Well done

  5. I think it’s great to see a nurse taking the lead – innovating and inventing a real product to help patients and going on to disseminate the creation. I’m surprise I didn’t hear about it before. She is one out of a million nurses. She’s very special and I I hope she gets the recognition she deserves.

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