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National Innovation Centre, NHS Blood and Transplant Services and Renfrew Group International,

ID5: Distribute the Product

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Executive Summary

Renfrew Group International (RGi) worked in close partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) in the successful, user-centered design and implementation of the new Phlebotomy (Blood Donor) chair and trolley system to enhance the donation experience and improve the whole process for patients, collection and support staff.
This partnership approach between RGi and NHSBT provided a real opportunity for innovation in the NHS procurement processes and a breakthrough in competitive tendering, whilst delivering excellence in engineering, value, quality and reliability.

Quick Detail

Innovation Owner:
Mike Phillips
Development stage:
ID5: Distribute the Product

Project Detail

The Unmet Need

The need for a new donor chair arose from several requirements that were not being met by the existing “flat bed” donation bed. The current stock of these beds were nearing the end of their working lives and requiring increased maintenance, as well as an increasing number of issues affecting both staff and donor safety and comfort.  

Despite numerous searches and procurement exercises to secure a suitable replacement by the NHSBT, it became apparent that no existing “off-the-peg” model met all of NHSBT’s requirements.

In May 2009, NHSBT approached the National Innovation Centre (NIC), who proposed the pre-commercial procurement process via WIBGI (“Would It Be Great If”) session, initiating a process of understanding of the specification needs from users and interested parties.

This resulted in three different designers producing alternative designs, two of which were selected to progress to physical prototypes which were tested by NHSBT. 

Renfrew Group’s winning design went through national ‘live’ trials, whereby both the principles of our Blood Donor Chair and trolley system were validated and judged in over 20 different venues, taking over 200 donations. 

Following the successful outcome of the trials, the fully defined specification was then put out to national tender for manufacture, which Renfrew Group’s low volume manufacturing arm subsequently won.

Proposed Solution

The aim was to create a donation chair that would provide their donors with maximum comfort, safety and satisfaction but also improve the working environment for healthcare staff.

NHSBT required a replacement plan that avoided any compromise to the sufficiency of red cell supply. The chair design would also be used for both whole blood or component donation, and need to be suitable in a variety of environments, including mobile sessions, donor centres and blood mobiles.

The ‘unmet need’ or absence of a fit for purpose donor chair provided with NHSBT and Renfrew Group with the opportunity for real innovation. By considering all of the NHSBT’s clinical and operational requirements and adopting a user centred approach, we were able to create a product that was light weight, easily transportable, robust, comfortable and easy for the staff to set up, clean and operate.

Intended benefits

The resultant design of the new Donation Chair addresses a host of issues and is suitable for use within a variety of environments. Working with the service design, the chair’s user centred and more modern design enhances the donation experience and improves the whole process for collection and support staff. It is also far more comfortable than the current beds, reduces staff injuries, is easier to transport as well as being easier to clean.

Key to the success of the project was the close partnership between the NHSBT and Renfrew Group International that ensured that the solutions were precisely attuned with the unmet needs and the service delivery and resulted in a custom specification at an optimum price.

For the first time a truly comparable quotation scenario was created, resolved, supported and controlled by the procurement team. This was made possible only with the pre commercial procurement of a fully detailed design and specification, The resultant IP was retained by the NHSBT, thereby creating a workable and attractive commercial arrangement for both the NHS and current and potential manufacture partners.

This innovative procurement process gained recognition for the NHSBT team, whereby the Donor Chair scooped the prestigious 'Procurement Initiative of the Year' at the annual Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards in London, November 2011.

Key Facts


  • Patient experience
  • Patient safety
  • Service quality
  • Service efficiency/productivity
  • Operational costs

Healthcare Areas

  • Primary Care

Health Problems

  • Other


  • Domestic