Army of volunteers making PPE for NHS
A volunteer at work in the Hack the Pandemic pop-up factory
SOME amazing work has been going on in South Gloucestershire homes – and a village hall – to produce vital personal protective equipment.
In homes across Bristol and South Gloucestershire, people have been making face shields, scrubs and other vital gear themselves and giving it to those who need it.
Volunteer group Hack the Pandemic was born out of a Facebook group for 3D printer users to help make up the shortfall in PPE for medical and care workers on the front line in the fight against COVID-19.
Another group, Scrub Hub Bristol was set up to make scrubs for NHS and care workers, keeping them supplied during April and May.
Hack the Pandemic founders Ed Clyne and Paul Haines set up a network of fellow printer users to mass-produce around 3,000 pieces of plastic equipment per week, primarily face shields and clips to enable N95 surgical masks to be worn more comfortably and efficiently, as well as a plastic device to enable people to open doors without touching the handles.
Most members did not know each other beforehand, and came together out of a desire to do something to help.
The group has had requests from teams at hospitals in Bristol and Bath, including the BRI, Bristol Children’s Hospital and Southmead, ambulance workers in Yate, care homes and even a London hospital, which had a member of staff living in Bristol who collected the order.
All the PPE is provided free of charge and the materials are paid for with funds raised on the group’s JustGiving page, which has received more than £17,000 so far.
Around 60 volunteers print the parts at home, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the gear is then collected and taken to an “emergency factory” operating in Emersons Green Village Hall twice a week.
There, the PPE is assembled in accordance with regulations by a small team, including three members of the same household, who are able to work at close quarters without breaching social distancing regulations. It is quality checked and stress tested, sterilised using ultraviolet light, washed and dipped in a 90% alcohol sanitiser before being packed for collection or delivery by volunteers.
The hall is also used for repairs to 3D printers and for the distribution of the finished PPE gear. Group member Josh Forwood, from Bedminster Down, usually uses his 3D printer to make spare parts for equipment he uses in his regular job as a freelance documentary cameraman.
He said: “We are not charging anything for the PPE we are supplying, and every member of the group is a volunteer. Our sole goal is to ensure that NHS staff and front-line workers have the tools they need to fight the Covid-19 virus.
“We’ve been blown away by the positive feedback from front line staff who have been receiving our PPE, and we’re keen to help as many people as possible.
“We are also touched by the outpouring of positivity from the general public.”
The group had to stop making and giving away the equipment during May after the government announced new requirements which insist all PPE producers have a CE certification that the products comply with European Economic Area health, safety, and environmental protection standards.
They were told to pay a £5,000 fee to national standards body the BSI, wait around three weeks for certification and not to distribute 2,000 pieces of equipment waiting to be delivered.
However, after a fortnight the government relented and said it would work with them to create a new agreed face shield band design and waive the £5,000 certification fee. It was also allowed to distribute the shields it had already made to non-healthcare professionals.
For more information on Hack the Pandemic visit www.HackThePandemic.co.uk and to donate, visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ppe-bath-bristol online.
Scrub Hub Bristol was part of a national drive to provide scrubs for the medical workers treating Covid-19 patients every day.
Set up by Amanda George, who runs city gift shop We Make Bristol, volunteers across Bristol and South Gloucestershire created scrubs for two months until the group was wound up at the end of May as it was no longer needed, with surplus funds donated to NHS charities.