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17 jobs axed at Sheffield implant firm due to downturn in trade with China

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JRI Orthopaedics has axed shop floor workers as the Chinese government puts pressure on prices.

The Chapeltown firm was bought by Chinese company AK Medical in 2018 and was hoping for major expansion in the Far East.

It makes implants for three markets: the UK, international and ‘sub contract’ products primarily in China.

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Jerry Agass, joint managing director at JRI Orthopaedics with a hip replacement implant.
Jerry Agass, joint managing director at JRI Orthopaedics with a hip replacement implant.

The Chinese government is increasing its control over medical device prices, including implants, to cut public hospital costs.

JRI managing director Jerry Agass said: “The products that we manufacture for China will reduce, hence the redundancies in our shop floor activities.

“The decision, as you can imagine, has not been taken lightly and is extremely regrettable.”

The UK and international business streams were slowly recovering from the pandemic as more elective surgeries take place, he added.

Dale Burbeary, coating operative at JRI Orthopaedics takes implants out of a vacuum plasma spray system which applies hydroxyapatite coating.

The AK Medical Group is one of the world’s largest 3D-printed orthopaedic implant manufacturers. It bought JRI Orthopaedics for £16.7m in 2018 from charity Orthopaedic Research UK.

At the time it promised significant investment, while its expertise in 3D printing was a major boost for its new acquisition.

Founded in 1970 by orthopaedic surgeon Ronald Furlong, JRI was the first to produce hip implants with hydroxyapatite coating – a synthetic bone made to a secret recipe – enabling a ‘biological bond’ with the patient and the prospect of a hip for life.

In 2018, half of the £14.5m annual sales were in the UK. Spain and China accounted for another 20 per cent each, with implants also going to Norway, Germany and Australia.

JRI Orthopaedics has seven-axis machining centres perform multiple milling tasks.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.



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