Reliance medical products

Reliance Medical revolutionizes first aid with sustainable packaging innovations 

Based in Staffordshire in the UK, Reliance Medical Ltd (Reliance) is a world-leading manufacturer and trade distributor of the highest quality surgical dressings, healthcare products, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), medical equipment and first aid supplies. Thanks to its dedication to quality, service and innovation, Reliance has solidified its position as the UK’s top manufacturer and trade-only supplier of first aid and medical equipment to the industrial sector. Supported by the largest distributor network for first aid in the UK, the company excels in own brand labelling, stays up to date with the latest regulatory requirements, and serves as the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for several British and international brands. In addition, Reliance has been a trusted supplier to the NHS and Ambulance services for nearly 15 years. Thomas Pear, Managing Director, sheds light on Reliance’s history.

Thomas Pear
Thomas Pear


“Reliance was established in 2006 by my father, making me a second-generation managing director. At that time, the company was led by four directors who boasted around 70 years of industry experience between them. Set up exclusively as a trade-only supplier of first aid and medical products to distributors around the UK, Reliance pledged never to engage directly with end users, the only exception being NHS and government bodies. We have experienced tremendous growth since then, making our first acquisition in 2010 and setting up our first international branch in Shanghai, in 2011. Reliance Shanghai remains a key manufacturing hub, producing a large portion of our imported goods distributed around the UK and the rest of our markets. We then made two further acquisitions in 2018 and 2019, establishing ourselves as the first choice in the industry for first aid and more,” he begins. 


Sustainability strategy 

Thomas details Reliance’s range of products and how international expansion has greatly facilitated their manufacturing and distribution. “Our initial product offering consisted of a first aid kit encompassing all traditionally included items, such as plasters, tapes, bandages, and dressings. We did not include rubber gloves because their manufacture requires a much larger facility, which was never on the cards for us. However, over the years, we broadened our product range to include anything that might be associated with first aid. For instance, we manufacture defibrillator cabinets and distribute defibrillators. In essence, we produce most items commonly found on the first aid shelves of high street pharmacies. 

“Our history of acquisitions has empowered us to deliver these offerings beyond our core markets, which are the UK and Ireland. We have very recently opened Reliance Europe in Hungary with the aim to grow our position in Europe and overcome the challenges associated with Brexit. Likewise, Reliance New Zealand was inaugurated last year and is currently doing so well that we are preparing to expand into Reliance Australia soon. Lastly, Reliance Shanghai evolved into a significant manufacturing hub with its own domestic sales division, marking our entry in the Chinese domestic market. Equipped with a state-of-the-art cleanroom, our Shanghai facility enables us to manufacture plasters, wipes, dressings, as well as foil blankets and triangular bandages – for which we use automation to improve efficiency. We are also starting to manufacture bags, which is something quite different to our initial aspirations for that facility,” he adds.  

Expanding product portfolio

Sustainability remains at the heart of Reliance’s endeavors as the company continues to introduce and manufacture new products. “Our latest sustainability innovation is our Aura3 Box, which was developed in response to the growing number of companies offering similar first aid kits and the lack of innovation in the industry. Within Reliance, our workforce comprises many university graduates and apprentices from different backgrounds who bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table. During a staff meeting, we recognized how unsustainable the packaging of our original first aid kit was. Indeed, we were enclosing a product in plastic flow wrap packaging, then putting it inside a plastic box that was further wrapped in plastic. This practice didn’t align with our environmental credentials and aspirations for a lower carbon footprint.  

“Given that innovation is our hallmark in the market as is our desire to make first aid better for the workplace and the planet, we all agreed to revise the manufacturing and packaging of our first aid kit. After lengthy months of research and development, we found the right manufacturing process that allowed us to produce our Aura3 boxes using fully recycled materials, which are also fully recyclable. However, we quickly realized that we were still sticking plastic labels on the box which could easily be replaced. Consequently, the Aura3 Box no longer features any labels and instead, we laser engrave symbols on the box which indicate the nature of its contents. Upon closer examination of the box’s contents, we identified another area for improvement. Everything was wrapped in flow wrap and plastic, leading us to intensify our efforts to create more sustainable packaging. So, our focus for 2024 is to introduce paper-wrapped dressings. Although it was a significant hurdle to overcome, we found a way to ensure the dressings remain sterile and valid for five years, all while minimizing our environmental impact,” Thomas explains. 

Through innovation in sustainable products and international expansion, Reliance is well-positioned to solidify its leadership in the medical sector for years to come.