Keele Physiotherapy students have provided valuable wellbeing support to a homeless retreat in Staffordshire, as part of a new partnership between Keele University and The Macari Centre.

The Centre, based in Stoke-on-Trent, provides emergency accommodation for anybody who finds themselves suddenly homeless. It was formed in 2016 when former professional footballer and Stoke City Football Club manager, Lou Macari, saw a news bulletin referring to the rise in homelessness in Britain – he responded by forming The Macari Foundation which is committed to helping end homelessness in Stoke-on-Trent.

Since lockdown, the Centre has relocated to a new building featuring individual accommodation as modern ‘pods’, to allow the guests to easily retain social distance. It is in the new accommodation setting where Keele students have visited the Centre as part of a five-week programme to gain an understanding of the health issues guests face and provide education about managing these issues independently.

Guests were invited to sit down with one of the five Keele physios to discuss their own physical health and students were able to offer them advice and education on topics including the short and long-term benefits of exercise and lifestyle advise.

Students had an opportunity to learn more about health inequalities in society and common health conditions suffered by homelessness, meaning they could diversify their learning from hospital and other familiar out-patient settings.

Teaching Fellow in Physiotherapy at Keele, Georgina Eckersley, said: “This partnership is mutually beneficial. It has been a hugely valuable experience for our students as it has given them real-life experience in a setting which allows them to become more prepared to meet the needs of the wider population.

“For the guests at The Macari Centre, it has provided regular contact over a series of weeks with people who are seeking support. Our aim in the future is to set up a physiotherapy clinic at the Centre to provide more specific support.”

Founder of The Macari Foundation, Lou Macari, said: “This is a new and exciting partnership between the School of Allied Health Professions at Keele and The Macari Foundation. The last five weeks has seen our guests being invited to confide in the students about their health issues and naturally, they are cautious as they might have problems that they don’t want to divulge.

“If the students can build trust with our guests and allow them to feel comfortable speaking to them about their issues, it allows us to be more prepared to support them as well as them engaging in conversations about improving their health.”

Stoke-on-Trent design, print and signage specialists Graphix has worked with the City Highways team on a project to help the gritting team communicate well with local residents this winter.


Graphix have added vinyl graphics on the crew cabs to provide clear identities for the city’s seven gritting lorries. Each cab now has the first names of the crew displayed on both the driver and passenger doors and the information is colour coded. There’s also clear new identification markings added to the front and rear of each gritting lorry.


Steve Ward, Managing Director at Graphix, said:  “The highways team had a bright idea to give each gritting lorry an identity as a way of identifying them to the city’s residents. They’ll be communicating by social media to say, for example, the blue team are out tonight gritting in certain postcodes and then residents can give feedback.


“We’re used to branding teams of vehicles, for example, this summer completing the graphics on 300 vehicles for the city’s Unitas housing maintenance service, and we were pleased to get on board with the highways team. The gritting lorries branding needed to be completed quickly, to be ready for the first cold snap of the winter, and we have the capabilities to act swiftly, with everything being prepared and printed in house, ready for installation at the highways depot.”


Graphix are branding, design and print specialists based at Norton, Stoke-on-Trent. Founded by brothers Steve and Simon Ward in 1983, the company is an approved supplier to Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Graphix work with companies large and small across the UK and have long-standing relationships with bet365 and Stoke City FC, where they are the football clubs official print and signage partner.

Awards celebrate business resilience

The gala presentation of the 2020 Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards, originally scheduled for July, took place at a special online presentation event on Thursday night.

Just short of 1000 users clicked to watch the event live as the results were announced by live streaming from the New Vic Theatre, hosted by Chambers CEO Sara Williams with guest presenters, Ed James from Heart FM and Kate Beardmore from Synectics Solutions.

The 15 category winners were chosen from a total entry of 300 businesses ranging from an award for the young employee or apprentice of the year to the overall winner of the prestige title of Staffordshire Business of the Year.

Sara Williams said: “After the year we’ve all had we were determined that the award ceremony would go ahead to give everyone a shot of positivity and a chance to celebrate.

“It’s never easy to pick winners when entries are of such a high standard. This year our businesses have achieved success in so many ways, by adapting and innovating, supporting fellow businesses and importantly supporting the NHS, key workers and those in our community who took the full impact of the pandemic.

“I would like to personally thank the entrants, judges, sponsors and the Chambers team for making sure the show went ahead and that we were able to shine the spotlight on all that is great about the Staffordshire business community.”

Award Winners:

Staffordshire Business of the Year – Klarius Group of Companies – sponsored by HSBC

Digital Transformation – Infinity IT Solutions – sponsored by Synectics Solutions

Employee/Charity Employee of the Year – Charlotte May, Risual – in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership

Employer of the Year – Three-way tie between: The Hanley Economic Building Society, Mitten Clark and Strategi Solutions Group Limited – sponsored by Newcastle & Stafford College Group

Entrepreneur of the Year – Vikki Sylvester, Acacia Training – sponsored by Staffordshire University

International Trade Award – Radwell International – sponsored by Department for International Trade

Manufacturers Award – Hardy Signs – sponsored by Michelin

Medium/Large Business of the Year – Klarius – sponsored by Dains

Most Promising New Start Up – Visionary Individual Pathways – sponsored by Start Up

Partnership and Collaboration – The Staffordshire Gin Company – Sponsored by Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce

Professional Services of the Year – Prosurv Consult – sponsored by Finest

Retail, Leisure, Culture and Tourism Award – The Slamwich Club – in partnership with Destination Staffordshire

Science, Technology, and Innovation – Aeon Engineering – sponsored by the University of Wolverhampton.

Small Business of the Year – The Staffordshire Gin Company – in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub

Sustainability and Environment Award – Laundry Efficiency – sponsored by Keele University

Young Employee/Apprentice of the Year – Luke Cassidy from Synectics Solutions – sponsored by Trentham Estate and Gardens

Last night I had the honour to host the live streaming of the 2020 Staffordshire Chambers Business Award results from the New Vic Theatre, with our fabulous guest presenters, Ed James from Heart FM and Kate Beardmore from Synectics Solutions.

The celebration has been a long time coming as it was originally scheduled for July. However, as I hope the hundreds who joined us online will testify, it was well worth the wait.

Our judges had the unenviable task of selecting the finalists for the sixteen category awards and the overall winner of Staffordshire Business of the Year, won by Cheadle based exhaust and emissions equipment manufacturer, Klarius. They really are an exemplar in the way they conduct their business, develop and support staff and apprentices and interact with and support the local community.

Congratulations to Klarius and all the winners and a big thankyou to everyone who has gone the extra-mile to make the awards happen including all the fantastic entrants, main sponsor HSBC and all the category sponsors, The New Vic Theatre, Ed James, Kate Beardmore and to the team at the Chamber who put in the hours and made it all happen.

You can view a full list of finalists, winners and sponsors on our website at:

Some welcome news on the finance front.

In reaction to the latest lockdown, the government has launched the Business Rates Support Grant scheme. The scheme will provide grants to qualifying businesses which have been forced to close rateable premises for three weeks or more due to imposed lockdowns, and has been extended to provide grants of up to £3000 per month (up from £1500).

These grants will be administered by each local council in Staffordshire, pending final details of the scheme, and will be open for application from 20 November at the earliest.

As guidance the amounts are:

• For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks; • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k, £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks; • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over, £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks. Businesses will be excluded if they can continue to operate during the period of restrictions because they do not depend on direct in-person services from their premises (e.g. accountants and solicitors), or if they have chosen to close of their own accord. To apply and for more information visit your local authority website or contact the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Helpline on 0300 111 8002

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email

One of the UK’s leading on line gift suppliers is supporting suppliers close to its Newcastle-under-Lyme base by offering more local produce than ever before in a new 2020 deluxe Christmas hamper.

AdGiftsOnline supplies corporate and personal gifts across the UK from its base at Lymedale Business Park.

The company’s Christmas stock features a host of hampers to appeal to a diverse market place.

Stephenie Altham, a Director at the family run company, said: “Hampers make fantastic presents and are among our best sellers each Christmas and our new handpicked hamper offers customers the chance to choose from a  wide range of produce. We’ve added high quality produce from our local area to the list, both to benefit our customers and support fantastic local companies.

“Choices include Moorland Pottery, Just Crisps, Guernsleigh Cheese, Brampton Candles, Hasbean Coffee and many more.  If you are a local business and believe your product would work well in our hampers, call Stephenie on 01782 571950.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that it has been a difficult year for business and we think that featuring a wealth of local brands is a way of supporting the local business community, while supplying our customers with great products that will delight their taste buds this Christmas.”

You can build your own hamper by calling Stephenie on 01782 571950.

AdGiftsOnline is run by husband and wife Steph and Tony Altham. Based at the Lymedale Business Centre, the company has been supplying a huge range of corporate gifts for 29 years.

Added Steph: “2020 has been a difficult year for the corporate gifts market with most trade shows and events falling foul to coronavirus restrictions. However, with much recent good news about possible vaccine breakthroughs, we are confident that there’s pent up demand in the marketplace for us to bounce back in 2021.”

AdGiftsOnline supply companies from multi-nationals, high street banks and major football clubs, through to scores of local Staffordshire businesses.

Record Sales for Rivetwise

COVID-19 has brought challenges to many businesses this year including Rivetwise. However, despite these uncertain times, we are very proud to announce that in October, Rivetwise achieved a record sales month – the highest ever in the Company’s history.

The company who serve a wide range of customers including automotive; building and construction, HVAC, manufacturing and rail are currently experiencing a period of growth having recently invested in areas such as sales, marketing and IT.

“This is an exciting time for Rivetwise who is a leading distributor of Stanley Engineered Fastening Products in the UK and Ireland. With plans for further investment in areas such as digital marketing, purchasing and our supply chain processes we are confident that despite the challenges that COVID-19 has brought to us and the industry, we have a positive outlook for next year”.

Francesca Brittain – Marketing Manager, Rivetwise

In recognition of their hard work, the staff team at Rivetwise have been treated to a bottle of bubbly. The company would also like to say a big thank you to all of their customers and business partners for their support in helping them achieve this.

A digital upskilling programme, designed to promote the introduction of digital tools within NHS general practices, has returned encouraging results.


Findings of a survey completed by participants, show that the majority of clinicians who participated in the programme have been utilizing digital tools to deliver care effectively during the Covid-19 pandemic.


The programme began in 2018, when NHS England funded a pilot in Staffordshire as part of the delivery of the GPN 10 Point Plan.


This pilot saw local General Practice Nurses (GPN) participate in a series of action learning sets, in order to adopt and embed technology enabled care and digital tools within their practices and develop as digital GPN champions.


The action learning sets were designed to demonstrate how technology enabled care and digital tools could be adopted and embedded within general practices to improve patient care and experience.


This programme of work was then commissioned across additional regions of England in 2018/19, and again in 2019/20.


The second phase of the programme saw primary care clinicians, including GPs and practice nurses, along with other healthcare professionals, take part in the action learning sets to develop their abilities and confidence in using digital tools to benefit patients, and encourage better management of long-term conditions.


These digital tools include video-consultations, the use of apps to encourage self-management of conditions, and the utilization of social media to provide people with safe and accurate health and lifestyle information.


Since the programme began, over 350 clinicians in primary care settings across the UK have taken part, to gain skills and confidence in the utilization of digital tools that can connect frontline healthcare workers and their patients.


Of course, the introduction of digital tools has become particularly significant with the onset of the current Covid-19 pandemic.


In September 2020, all participants of the upskilling programme were invited to complete a digital survey.


This survey was designed to ascertain whether participation in the programme had encouraged the participants, and their colleagues, to embrace the digital delivery of care more effectively during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Of the 200+ responses received, 72% of participants confirmed that they had held video-consultations with patients in August and September 2020. With 95% of respondents reporting that colleagues in their practice had used video-consultation during the same period, demonstrating that the learnt digital transformation had been widely adopted.


88% of respondents also confirmed that clinician to patient texting, and the sharing of health messages and practice information on social media was being utilised.


The utilization of digital tools in this way ensures that patients still feel connected to their local GPs and surgeries, despite a significant drop in the number of face-to-face appointments being carried out.


The results of the survey have been captured in an article published on BJGP Life1.. The article reiterates that primary care clinicians need the skills and support, not just the ‘kit’, to make digital primary care transformation happen in practice at scale, and demonstrates that the majority of the programme’s participants were providing video-consultations in their practices between July and September 2020.


This is an excellent result when compared to the national average, as overall just 0.5% of general practice consultations in England were video-consultations in September 20202..


Rachel Hatfield, National Programme Manager for the GPN and Clinician Action Learning Sets, and Special Projects Manager for Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit, commented; “these fantastic results demonstrate that upskilling general practice clinicians encourages the implementation of technology enabled care and digital tools as usual service”.


Dr Ruth Chambers, Clinical Lead for the programme, highlighted that “the digital upskilling course developed clinician’s confidence and capabilities, which allowed them to easily and successfully adapt to the new ways of working required as a result of the current pandemic”.

Recent data released by the DVLA and Department for Transport (DfT) has illustrated that the UK car parc is older than it has ever been. Older cars are undoubtedly popular, and as a result aftermarket support will be required for these vehicles long into the future. Klarius Products, the UK’s largest manufacturer of aftermarket emission controls components, has reiterated that in terms of replacement exhaust systems – the support is already there.

According to VEH0207: Licensed cars by number of years since first registration: Great Britain and United Kingdom, the number of cars on UK roads aged over 13 years has grown from 6.3% in 1994 to 19.1% in 2019, an increase of approx. 3,781,900 vehicles. This effective tripling of older vehicles on UK roads shows that motorists are willing to operate older combustion powered cars despite scrappage schemes and financial subsidies from the government designed to incentivise electric cars.

There are a number of reasons for this. The overall build quality of vehicles steadily improved from the 1990s into the mid-2000s, ensuring that cars from this era have an increased service life compared to cars that were more common in 1994. This has naturally resulted in a higher proportion of older cars on the road in 2019. Additionally, car enthusiasts are drawn to models that may deliver a more traditional or involving driving experience. Typically, these owners will maintain their vehicles to a high standard, further increasing service life.

To keep these cars on the road long after manufacturer support has expired, owners often rely on the aftermarket to provide high quality replacement components. However, with such a variance across older cars, in some cases it can be difficult to source an optimum component that fits and preserves the original performance of the vehicle.

Doug Bentley, Head of Research and Development at Klarius Products Ltd, has helped to build an extensive range of quality emissions control components to meet this need: “While developing replacement exhausts, catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters for modern vehicle applications is important; our range of over 11,000 components has also been designed to support older models too. By analysing market data, we can identify older vehicle models that are popular or lack replacement parts.

“We then develop a new component with a test vehicle of corresponding marque, model and production year. This means we have replacement components in stock for older sports cars, saloons, MPVs, SUVs, hatchbacks, estates and vans. Every component features a 2-year warranty and Fit First Time guarantee. We make this possible by fitting new parts to real cars during our development and testing process. This means less time on the ramp for our garage customers. None of our UK exhaust competitors independently test and certify their parts on vehicles with the Department for Transport’s Vehicle Certification Agency. 90% of all orders received by 5:30pm will be delivered before 12pm the next morning, 60% of which may be delivered by 9am.” To add to this, Mark Brickhill, CEO at Klarius, comments “of course cars manufactured in the last 15 years are also made to higher, and ever increasing, environmental standards which our parts meet or exceed.”

Klarius ensures total availability across its range thanks to dynamic stocking procedures. Components are manufactured in Staffordshire to meet current market demand. Extensive stock warehousing ensures that a replacement exhaust system for an old Mazda MX-5 offers the same lead time as a system for a newer Nissan Qashqai. Therefore, older cars do not spend longer on the repair ramp waiting for a component, despite their age.

“At Klarius, we are passionate about older vehicles. Many of us are enthusiasts, so we are very proactive in offering likeminded vehicle owners access to quality components that provide OEM levels of performance. As this data illustrates, it is clear that the aftermarket will need to provide this replacement support for many years to come.” Doug concludes.

Construction work on a new community hub in Codsall is now underway and Councillor Brian Edwards MBE, Leader of South Staffordshire Council, joined representatives from Russell House Primary Care Practice, Codsall Library and Seddon in a ground breaking event to mark the start of this ambitious project, which is expected to open in early 2022.


Councillor Brian Edwards MBE, Leader of South Staffordshire Council, said, “It is really exciting that construction work is now underway and I’m delighted that our plans are moving forward despite the coronavirus pandemic. We are investing £10 million to refurbish and add an extension to the council offices in Codsall and the transformation of the site will secure the building’s long-term future.


“This new facility replaces outdated 1970s heating and hot water systems with new energy efficient ones, helping reduce the building’s environmental impact and running costs. Electric vehicle charging points will be installed in the car park and batteries in the basement will store electricity to run the building and also enable us to sell surplus energy from solar panels back to the grid.


“Specialist teams from across the public, health, private and voluntary sectors will be co-located together in a modern, agile working and collaborative environment and, when the building is open to the public, residents will benefit from being able to access multiple services on one site right in the heart of the community. I’m sure the community hub will be a huge asset to the district and I’m looking forward to seeing our exciting vision turned into a reality.”


The Council has been working with partners and local businesses to make sure the new community hub meets the needs of the local community. As part of the plans, the existing library will be relocated to a new extension built at the front of the building and there will be a refurbished café and a retail unit set in an open plan atrium, increased car parking, office space and community meeting rooms. Russell House Primary Care Practice will also be relocating to the community hub.


Councillor Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities and Culture, said, “Codsall library is a busy, popular part of the community and it’s an exciting prospect to be part of the expanded community hub. The current library will remain open throughout the building’s refurbishment and once it’s taken up its new space it will be a great platform to develop the service for the future.”


Pat Roberts, Patient Participation Chair at Russell House Primary Care Practice, said, “We are looking forward to moving into a new surgery that will allow us to expand and see patients in a modern purpose-built space. Our current building was never designed as a practice and we have no patient parking. Going forward, the move will be of great benefit to all our patients, access will be improved, and we look forward to becoming a training practice and increasing our service.”


Stuart Fanshaw, Operations Director at Seddon, the contractor chosen to refurbish and build the community hub, said, “It’s great to be starting work on this scheme knowing how much of a difference the new library, GP surgery and additional facilities will make to the community of Codsall. We’re excited to see the changes taking shape over the next 12 months and can’t wait to hand this fantastic new space over to the people of Codsall in early 2022.”

A local radio station, a pub and a card shop – what do they have in common? As well as all being based in Staffordshire, the three very different businesses all clubbed together to raise funds for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity and its lifesaving cause.


Cannock-based Gemini Sounds Radio, The Bell and Bottle pub located in Hednesford and Bows and Sparkles, a party shop situated in the village of Heath Hayes held a joint event to raise money for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity and to help it attend more lifesaving missions and treat some of the region’s most critically ill and injured patients.


The community event included traditional games, such as hook-a-duck and a raffle with prizes. The three local community businesses did not stop there. To generate even more fundraising income, they had someone dress up in a chicken suit who walked up and down the road with a bucket clucking for donations.


Kelly Weatherer, Staffordshire fundraising executive for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity says: “We do not receive any Government funding for our daily missions, so any generous donations made by those in the local communities we serve, like these three Staffordshire-based businesses, really do help us make our lifesaving missions possible.”


For more information on Midlands Air Ambulance Charity, you can visit and follow the organisation on social media.