What is the connection between a writer and painter and an inventor of urological devices? Perhaps surprisingly, they are one and the same. Orde Levinson, managing director of Whiz UK, is a painter, writes books on art and is an art historian.

As a taboo subject of dinner table conversation, urine ranks well below sex, religion and politics. But the fact is, men can easily urinate other than in a toilet, or accurately deposit a specimen into a container, while women find the first often difficult and the second awkward and embarrassing.

Mr Levinson found inspiration for his inventions while in a long queue for the toilet at a New York theatre.

One lady in the queue was in clear distress and the amusement of another man at her discomfort raised Mr Levinson’s hackles.

Whiz now manufactures and sells the Freedom and the Cleancatch Midstream. The Freedom allows a woman to urinate while standing and without undressing.

And the Cleancatch gives accurate, automatic and sterile collection of urine samples.

When Mr Levinson began to research his subject he found that women could urinate standing up.

He said: “That was a surprise. Then I found that Herodotus, the Greek researcher, had written in the 5th century BC about Egyptian women who stood to urinate. So I invented a female urinal.”

The idea did not take off. He approached his GP to install one in his surgery as a market test. His doctor declined, but said he would be very interested in a better device to collect urine samples.

So, the ideas behind today’s products gradually developed. Understanding the anatomy and physiology was critical and using female anatomical moulds, prototypes were designed, tested and refined.

Urine, along with tissue, blood and faeces, is a key fluid in diagnostic testing. A pregnant woman has to give eight samples during her term and the UK has some of the highest rates of pre-natal births and neo-natal deaths from urinary tract infections or UTIs. Diagnosing UTIs early in pregnancy is significant in reducing such problems.

Mr Levinson explained: “Analysis of urine samples has progressed in leaps and bounds, but sample collection has not advanced in 100 years.”

Sample contamination is a continuing problem, leading to false results and increased costs from re-tests.

With the exception of certain infections like chlamydia, the sample needs to be from the mid-stream or middle water. Patients frequently ignore instructions on sample collection, clinical staff may lack the time to ensure a correct sample, and a woman struggling with a small plastic vial is at a major disadvantage.

The Midstream solves all those problems. While shaped to be used by a female, it is both unisex and suitable for adults and children.

Urinating into the device automatically wastes the first water into the toilet, then collects the mid-stream into a sterilised vial.

The vial is then quickly removed and closed with the cap provided. It has an internal boric acid coating to preserve the sample. This allows a good sample for analysis possibly hours later, rather than the current system which demands immediate delivery to the laboratory.

With 300 million urine tests a year in Europe and the same in the United States, the potential market is substantial.

Approved in both UK and the USA, the Midstream is available on UK prescription, but sales to the NHS proved an uphill struggle and have held back the growth of the company.

“The NHS purchasing system is pretty difficult and not pro-innovation, unfortunately.

“We’ve had an excellent report from a government organisation called the Centre for Evidence-Based Purchasing and that’s helped.

“It’s our local MP, Andrew Smith, who’s taken up the problems at ministerial level and he’s an enormous help,” Mr Levinson said.

The mainstay of company income is from the Freedom. It is available on prescription to injured or disabled women who find passing water awkward.

For those with hobbies or pursuits, it is a boon. A backpacker no longer needs to undress, or risk being stung by nettles or brambles; a glider pilot, aloft for up to eight hours, avoids a catheter or incontinence pads.

“And with the awful state of many public toilets, a woman can direct her urine into the bowl without the need to sit on it.

Made of soft rubber, the Freedom can be connected by tubes to a bag or collection device. The device repels all liquids and is antibacterial.

Guy Burnell has recently been hired as business development manager. He is handling an increasing number of enquiries and establishing new markets and distributors worldwide.

The company presently has five distributors, with another 20 in the pipeline.

“What we need now is growth capital, to finance the staff and resources to really penetrate the new markets.

“We’ve had first-class support from our current investors, but the next phase will really see a step-change in our fortunes,” said Mr Levinson.

Name: Whiz UK Established: 2002 Owners: Orde Levinson

Number of staff: Three Annual turnover: Confidential

Contact: 01865 240572 Web: www.whizproducts.co.uk