Coronavirus: UK Sewing Volunteers Fix PPE Supply Gap

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PPE face masks and sewing

In the daily news briefings this week the British government have assured the public that they have ordered enough Personal Protection Equipment for everyone who needs it. There is no shortage of scrubs, which are hygienic clothing worn by surgeons or medical staff according to those in charge of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in England. Health minister Matt Hancock stated on the BBC News this week “that we will not rest” until all health and care workers get adequate supplies of PPE.

In Westminster at Number 10 the country’s top team have said there is no lack of face masks, eye protection, gowns, aprons and gloves. However last week a survey carried out by the British Medical Association found that “just 12% of hospital doctors said the felt fully protected from the virus at work and 27% of hospital doctors reported running low on basic anti-infection supplies such as soap.” (1)

At the same time an article in The Guardian revealed that the UK has been missing out on the opportunity of participating in a massive order of PPE that was made by the European Union. According to the newspaper’s sources this was due to a mix up with email correspondence between Boris Johnson’s ministers and EU leaders over the channel in Brussels. (2)

This month hundreds of people who can sew are kindly giving their time to make personal protective equipment for doctors, nurses and carers across the country. These life saving garments ensure virus droplets cannot spread between the professionals caring for sick people and a person who is being treated. Thankfully many businesses are also stepping up and providing the much needed resources, including the historic designer trench coat brand Burberry.

In Birmingham Zhagum Arshad runs a company called Loft 25 that usually make home and garden furnishings. Zhagum and his team have all turned their hands to making plastic fabric PPE for National Health Service staff. Loft 25 has signed up more than 300 volunteers and together they have made more than 1000 medical grade coveralls so far, with more than 4000 in the pipeline.(3)

In Kent Sarah Mabb, Carole Dalton and Megan McKay launched Kent Scrubbers to overcome the shortage of scrubs. They have been making paper sewing templates for the coveralls that home sewers can order online and then have delivered. These patterns are now unavailable due to an unexpected demand. Undeterred, the creative ladies have recommended an alternative online template download that includes instructions for masks, wash bag and headgear patterns too. Approximately 600 home sewers have taken up the challenge so far. (4)

In Yorkshire Laura Casey of Sew Different has put her sewing and pattern making skills to great use by uploading scrubs patterns to her website which can be printed on an A4 printer at home for a £3 fee. (5)

East Sussex Seamstresses NHS & Frontline is a facebook group that has been set up by Mel Baldwin-Lucie to coordinate the making of PPE in this south east county. The local sewers are looking forward to a huge delivery of fabric tomorrow. A computer database has been constructed to organise all the different types of home made products that have been finished and are ready to be donated to hospitals and key workers. (6)

Meanwhile also in the south ‘Scrubs for Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust’ is a facebook page hub administered by Dawn Goodall that has raised £5000 for fabric for PPE so far. The community group has now closed the private social media page to new members due to 600 people signing up and the need to allocated tasks and resources to their existing volunteer list. (7)

A nurse and mother from Lincolnshire named Ashleigh Linsdell set up a facebook group called ‘For The Love of Scrubs’ which has seen more than 9000 people join to help the effort to supply NHS workers with the protection they need. (8) Ashleigh’s website also shares the scrubs patterns on a free google drive link so that they can be easily reproduced. (8)

The current status of which hospitals are accepting donations can be found on a Trello link at her page which, if it is accurately up to date, shows that 44 hospitals and NHS Trusts are still looking for donations from the public at the moment. (9) However the UK Health and Safety Executive say they have provided “more than 761 million pieces of PPE across the UK” now so it may be taking time for the operational channels to distribute crucial PPE correctly to everywhere that it is required. (11)

The massive response by talented crafters and practical citizens across the country to provide PPE where it is needed very quickly shows the enormous willingness to support people working in healthcare and on the frontline, during these difficult times.

The kindness and generosity of the public to donate their time, money and materials while they are staying at home and saving lives, is an indication of just how much the NHS and also our essential services are valued and appreciated by everyone in Great Britain.

 

(1) ‘BMA survey finds doctors’ lives still at risk despite Government pledges on PPE’ British Medical Assocation Team, 7 April 2020, BMA article lack of PPE in NHS

 

(2) ‘UK missed three chances to join EU scheme to bulk-buy PPE’ Daniel Boffey, The Guardian, 13 April 2020, Daniel Boffey, The Guardian, UK missed EU order PPE

 

(3) ‘Hundreds volunteer to sew scrubs for frontline NHS workers’ Tom Dare, Birmingham Live, 15 April 2020, Tom Dare, Birmingham Live, Volunteers Sew Scrubs for NHS

 

(4) Ashford, Dover & Folkestone Scrubbers, Facebook Page for volunteers supporting William Harvey Hospital & NHS Trust, 16 April 2020, Ashford Scrubbers facebook link

 

(5) ‘Scrubs paper pattern – not for profit’ (with download link) Laura Casey, Sew Different,

16 April 2020, Laura Casey, Sew Different, Scrubs Pattern

 

(6) East Sussex Seamstresses NHS & Frontline, PPE sewing facebook group, 16 April 2020, East Sussex PPE sewing facebook group

 

(7) Scrubs For Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust, PPE sewing facebook group, 16 April 2020, Surrey and Sussex, PPE sewing facebook group

 

(8) For The Love of Scrubs, Ashleigh Linsdell, public facebook group, 16 April 2020, For The Love of Scrubs, Ashleigh Linsdell, facebook group

 

(9) Multiple Patterns for Scrubs, Shared Google Drive Link, 16 April 2020, Patterns for Scrubs, Shared Google Drive Link

 

(10) ‘Hospital Status Whether Accepting Donations’ Trello Database, George Linsdell, 16 April 2020, George Linsdell, Trello, Shared Database, Status PPE Hospitals

 

(11) ‘Coronavirus: Has the NHS got enough PPE?’ Michelle Roberts, BBC News, 16 April 2020, Michelle Roberts, BBC News, Has the NHS got enough PPE