Middlesex University has begun producing hundreds of essential gowns and scrubs to protect NHS staff working on the frontline during the COVID-19 crisis.
MDX Arts & Creative Industries (ACI) faculty staff including a team of homeworkers and even the local fire brigade have been involved in the community effort to produce the vital equipment for health workers during a time of unprecedented crisis.
The gowns and scrubs will be sent to the NHS London Gold Command which has also benefited from more than 60,000 visors assembled on-site at the university’s main campus in Hendon, north-west London.
“Health workers in the NHS are working so hard to look after everybody in this pandemic. Middlesex University has expertise and facilities and tons of goodwill, so we were all keen to put our capabilities to good use and do everything we can to help." Carole-Anne Upton, the Executive Dean of Arts and Creative Industries.
Resourceful staff have used alternative raw material for the gowns because the standard material is not readily available in the UK and cannot be sourced due to an export ban in the country where it is made.
The material for the gowns and scrubs is being cut into a design and overlocked in the Grove building on campus by ACI academic and technical staff before being dispatched via Hendon Fire Brigade to a team of home workers who have been sewing the fabric together.
The finished PPE products are then collected and transported to the NHS London Gold Command in Enfield and on to hospitals through the existing transport arrangements set up for the visors.
Daniel Sosnowski, Arts & Creative Industries Faculty Technical Manager, said the gowns are waterproof and can be washed and re-worn hundreds of times.
Explaining why the ACI staff launched the production, Mr Sosnowski said: “We have colleagues who are desperate to help and want to make a difference and assist the NHS in this time of need.
“Everybody recognises what a fantastic job the NHS is doing.
“Everybody wants to contribute and we do have colleagues and staff with the expertise and the knowhow.”
It is hoped around 160 gowns and 160 sets of scrubs will be produced each week as the production gets in full swing.
As a personal touch ACI staff have been including ‘made with love by Middlesex University’ on the tags of the gowns and scrubs.
Carole-Anne Upton, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange and Executive Dean of Arts and Creative Industries, said: “Health workers in the NHS are working so hard to look after everybody in this pandemic.
"Middlesex University has expertise and facilities and tons of goodwill, so we were all keen to put our capabilities to good use and do everything we can to help.
“This has been a challenging process because we had to source alternative materials and then come up with suitable prototypes after rigorous testing to ensure they meet the safety standards that are required.
"We’ve also had to ensure that our staff are working safely, with strict protocols in place for social distancing and infection control measures.
“What has been so pleasing to see is how our staff have worked together to come up with a solution to every problem.
"We’ve found that focusing on these challenges, in the knowledge that we are doing something positive, has also helped colleagues to cope with the lockdown.
“This is Middlesex University at its best: being innovative, resourceful, and working closely with the wider community.
“We are extremely thankful to all the staff who have volunteered to help and to the Hendon Fire Service who have made this PPE production work possible.”
Two prototypes for the gowns, which use a PU-coated polyester and PU-coated nylon, were approved by the NHS.
The fabric for the scrubs and gowns has been sourced from Carrington Textiles and Talon Textiles Limited respectively.
The NHS London Gold Command began receiving its first delivery of gowns and scrubs on Friday May 1.
More than 300 sets of scrubs have been completed and 1,000 metres of fabric has now arrived to be processed.
During a video call with the MDX staff involved in producing PPE, Councillor Caroline Stock, the Mayor of Barnet, said: “The borough is extremely proud of the work that is happening at Middlesex University and we are also very grateful.
“When we all work together as a community, look at what can be achieved.”
MDX staff from the Faculty of Science & Technology and the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries have now laser-cut more than 60,000 protective visors for NHS staff tackling coronavirus.
The visors use the simplest technology – a headstrap and a plastic shield covering the eyes and face - so they can be made quickly when medical masks are in such short supply globally.
The University’s main campus and facilities remain closed because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. The PPE production is taking place in line with strict government guidelines to ensure safe working and infection control.