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30 Years of The Hilditch Group
The Longest Running Medical Equipment Auctioneer In Britain

The Hilditch Group celebrate its 30th anniversary this Summer, making it the longest running medical equipment auctioneer in Britain. Established in June 1990 by Mike and Nicky Hilditch, it has grown to be the largest auctioneer of healthcare equipment in Europe.

Working as a freelance auctioneer in the UK and South Africa, Mike was struck that the standards of professionalism varied considerably across auction houses, that anyone can call themselves an auctioneer with no formal training and no qualifications, leading to a disparity between companies and the level of service that they offered. Mike and Nicky made it their aim to establish the most professionally managed commercial auction house in the UK. Professionalism is very much still part of the company’s ethos today. The organisation was originally set up as a general and commercial salesroom; offering sales in plant and machinery, general household and antiques and commercial catering equipment. In the early days the organisation even held sales in horses, a throwback from Mike’s days working in livestock auctions. Starting with a modest 5 staff members, this quickly grew to 8 in the first year and now employs almost 50.

It was during the second year whilst clearing a kitchen for a local hospital, Mike noticed that whilst the hospital was happy to sell the catering equipment, they would, however, not permit the sale of redundant surgical trolleys, instead these were simply thrown into a skip. From that moment the seed of an idea was planted and the Hilditch Group started researching the medical market. At that time the majority of hospitals disposed of all their medical equipment, regardless of condition, due to a general fear of liability. It took several years for Hilditch as an organisation to persuade a handful of hospitals to consider the resale of their redundant medical equipment as an option. The equipment was sold to a large number of overseas buyers, who normally would not have been able to afford new equipment. As a result, huge quantities of equipment were given an extended life, landfill and recycling was reduced. These days the reasons for resale of medical equipment have taken on even more pertinence as we are all much more aware of the waste in our society. The expansion of the company was initially slow as NHS trusts took a long time to consider the implications of resale. The introduction of the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) legislation sped the process up, as hospitals considered how they could reduce waste and fulfil their obligations.

 

As many new hospitals were built over subsequent years as part of the PFI initiative, resulted in large numbers of redundant assets being surplus to requirements. The Hilditch Group was invited to work with the Department of Health to promote the re-use of equipment as part of the NHS’ waste management strategy, as the Hilditch Group was able to offer a complete site clearance service, managing the sale and disposal of the entire contents of the old hospital sites.

Innovation has always been key to the company’s success, they were one of the first auction houses to offer Timed Online Auctions, developing their own bidding system years before any other auction house.

 

Mike also was involved in establishing the National Association of Auctioneers and Valuers (NAVA), an organisation dedicated to improving the professional status of auctioneers and upholding the highest standards of service delivery. Now a Fellow of the Association, he is very keen that his valuers take the NAVA exams and carry out regular CPD courses to improve their skills.

 

In the past 10 years the company has grown exponentially, expanding its customer base in the United Kingdom to include, not only most of the public and hospitals, but also manufacturers, banks and lease companies. The organisation has expanded into western Europe with offices in Spain (Hilditch Iberia), France and Germany.

The latest addition to the Hilditch stable is Hilditch Connect, bespoke valuation and asset management software for the healthcare sector. Hilditch Connect uses sales data generated from the thousands of individual sales carried out each month by the Hilditch Group and provides accurate residual values for 160 categories of equipment and it is peer reviewed by a specialist panel of Hilditch valuers. You could say it is the pinnacle of Mike and Nicky’s vision of developing the company to the height of professionalism.

 

Mike and Nicky have just stepped back from day-to-day running of the company, but are delighted that children Henry, Hugo and Prue have taken up the auctioneer’s gavel, continuing the Hilditch lineage within the organisation. Mike remarks; “there are exciting times ahead both in the UK and Europe and there are some excellent young staff rising up through the ranks to take the company forward for the next 30 years, I wish them all the best”.