Sewing superheroes work round the clock making PPE for struggling healthcare workers in Lancashire

A group of Lancashire people have rallied to help address the PPE crisis, using thousands of their own savings to sew scrubs and masks for healthcare workers in Lancashire.

By James Holt
Monday, 20th April 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 20th April 2020, 11:25 am

Dawn Leyshon, along with friends Yvonne Cawell and Sue Morton, have begun making masks, aprons and scrubs for front line workers out of donated fabrics.

Dawn rallied her old pals from Tetrad together, along with her local community, to make protective equipment for NHS workers.

She has since spent £6,000 of her own savings on materials, along with a donation from Plumbs fabrics.

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Dawn Leyshon, one of the friends who have mobilised an army of volunteers to produce essential equipment for medical staff at RPH and Chorley Hospital PHOTO NEIL CROSS

“We are all cutting the fabric at home in our kitchens and on our dining tables. I asked hospices and hospitals what they wanted, and I think it is important that we can deliver that,” she said.

“This cannot wait. It’s urgent and is a commutative effort that needs to be done now.

“I haven’t thought about the money at any point, I am just remembering the staff who need these supplies. I want to make sure the staff are getting what they deserve.”

Dawn has now got her family and the local community on board, with more than300 local people helping her cut, sew and deliver the protective equipment to nearby hospitals such as St Catherine’s Hospice.

Sue Morton, one of the friends who have mobilised an army of volunteers to produce essential equipment for medical staff at RPH and Chorley Hospital

She said : “It’s amazing, we have been flocked with people dropping off materials and delivering to hospitals. The whole Preston community has got involved.

“The NHS has now said they will donate us some money to cover the costs, and we are also fundraising.”

Simon Carr, who works for BAE systems, has also set up a ‘Go Fund Me’ page to allow him to make plastic face shields for nurses and health workers in South Ribble.

Since his first donation to nurses and GPs in Chorley, Simon has gone on to deliver 20 face shields to a care home in Penwortham with staff coping with low levels of PPE.

He said: “My donations so far have been based on clinical need because I have been contacted directly by GPs who have told me about services in the area that need them.”

And all of the BAE Systems’ industrial-scale 3D printers across the UK are now producing face shields for the NHS, including a major facility at our site in Samlesbury, Lancashire. Fresh supplies are being delivered to frontline health workers daily.

To date, more than 24,000 face shields have been delivered, with 11,000 being donated to hospitals in Preston, Leyland and Blackpool.

It comes as frontline workers in Lancashire are calling for more access to personal protective equipment (PPE) to help keep them safe at work.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, some healthcare workers say they have been left without sufficient equipment, with one union rep warning: ‘It’s case of get what you are given.’

Government guidance states that clinicians working in primary or hospital care, or a community care setting require aprons, gloves, a surgical mask and eye protection. However, the guidance has seen changes since the coronavirus pandemic began, with some healthcare workers saying they were not offered sufficient protection.

Neil Cosgrove, branch secretary and Unite Lead for North West Ambulance Service, claims the current PPE does not meet all the needs of paramedics.

He said: “The PPE equipment is more orientated around the clinical environment where everything is within four walls.

“It wasn’t working in an environment outside a hospital, which meant I worried for the health and wellbeing of myself and my colleagues.

“It has been taken completely out of our hands. There just isn’t sufficient supplies of PPE because of the vast demand meaning it’s a case of getting what you’re given. This has meant we have had to dilute the level of protection we give our staff.”

Neil says volunteers making PPE, including some from BAE Systems, are doing their best to plug the gap.

He said: “The Preston Ambulance service has now been supplied with 200 visors from British Aerospace. Me and my colleagues would like to thank the community for all their support and other workers who have come to the front line. It’s truly admirable.”

The North West Ambulance Service said they pride themselves on following the best clinical and scientific advice.

A spokesman for the NWAS said: “NWAS follows the PPE advice and guidance of Public Health England (PHE) specifically set out for ambulance staff which is being followed by ambulance trusts across the country.

“The safety of our staff is of paramount importance to us. We want to ensure that they are as protected as they possibly can be and that the public have every confidence in us when responding to them.

“We continue to co-ordinate and liaise with NHS Supply Chain, PHE and NHS England on an ongoing basis so that we have the required PPE available to our staff across the trust.”

Among others who are struggling in sourcing the correct PPE for their services is St Catherine’s Hospice, near Preston.

Their specialist end-of-life care is keeping 250 patients out of hospital every day, but their need for protective equipment is growing.

“People who need our care are vulnerable to viruses like COVID-19 and particularly those who are inpatients at the hospice, so it is essential that we source the necessary PPE to protect our patients and staff,” said Tracy Parkinson, inpatient unit manager at St Catherine’s Hospice.

“We are experiencing difficulty in obtaining the type of disposable gowns recommended by Public Health England. The FFP3 face masks and gowns run out quickly and we don’t always know when our next orders will arrive.

“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local businesses, craft groups and other organisations and individuals who have donated or handmade everything from scrubs and uniform bags, to gloves and screen wipes, and we’re extremely grateful to them.”

A survey by trade union Unison of 2,600 care workers across the North West found the majority of those working in residential care, home care and learning disability support, did not feel they had enough PPE.

One respondent who works in Preston said: “I have no protective clothing (and they are) not listening to concerns. No hand sanitiser either, putting me and others at risk.”

Unison North West regional organiser Dan Smith said: “Applause, badges and plaudits mean nothing if care workers are unable to do their jobs without putting their own life- and the lives of their service users- at risk.”