Spirit Healthcare, Chris Barker, Leicester, Empower




Spirit International is a

Leicester-based family

of companies, the main

focus of which is diabetes

products and education.

The company has two arms. Spirit

Healthcare supplies products including

blood glucose and ketone meters

CareSens and Tee2, as well as the

Insupen range of insulin pen needles,

plus Medlance and Sterilance safety

lancets, plus injection devices including

Insupen and InsuJet (which does not

even use needles). It also offers digital

solutions Activ8rlives and Clini-Touch Vie.

The other arm is Spirit Clinical

Services, which includes its two education

programmes, Empower and Step-AWeigh.

Empower is aimed at people with

Type 2 diabetes, while Step-A-Weigh is

designed to support weight loss.

Chief Executive Chris Barker (pictured)

studied sciences at university and took

his first job in the pharmaceutical division

of Johnson & Johnson. He stayed there

for around nearly six years and recalls, "I

loved it. I'd probably still be there, but for

personal reasons I relocated to Leicester

and joined Takeda as Regional Account

Director within the East Midlands. Barker

left that position to work in a consultancy

role for both the private sector and for

the NHS. It was during that time that he

became familiar with glucose testing and

how costly the strips and meters were. At

that point Barker started Spirit Healthcare

with a view to developing a brand of

quality meters and strips but at a lower

cost to the NHS."

Spirit Healthcare was started in 2009.

"We launched on an absolute shoestring,"

remembers Barker, "Even our branding

used drawings by our children, who we

asked to doodle what they imagined

when thinking of 'health care'. We started

with the CareSens meter, which then led

on to other products such as lancets and

pen needles."

Empowering people

Soon Spirit Healthcare began delivering

an education portfolio in response to

needs identified within the NHS. Barker

recalls, "We were working with the

NHS prescribing teams on projects that

involved getting people to understand

what to do with the information gained

from doing blood tests. It became clear

that raising people's understanding

was very important. We were directly

asked to help with diabetes education

which directly lead to our structured

education programme. Our Empower

courses have resulted in hugely improved

understanding of lifestyle choices for the

vast majority of people who attend them

with a significant improvement shown in

measured clinical outcomes."

However, it's a common complaint that

people with diabetes often are unaware

of educational courses available to them

through their NHS service. So one of the

challenges has been how to get people

to attend. Says Barker, "According to the

latest National Diabetes Audit published

by Diabetes UK, less than 10% of people

referred actually make it onto a course

and complete it. We realised that simple

things like hiring the room, setting the

room up and basic communications with

patients themselves was something we

had to provide for the NHS as part of the


On behalf of its CCG partners, Spirit

works with the local health services.

They give referrals to patients to attend

the course, they are put on the Empower

database and from which we can send

them reminders and prompts to book a

course online. "We are able to show that

45% of people who are referred to our

courses not only attend but complete

them," says Barker.

At the moment, the Empower T2N

course focuses on people aged 18 to

25 who are newly diagnosed with Type

2 diabetes with a new course being

launched currently across areas in the

Midlands who get specific education


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