First protective gowns go into production at Northumbria Healthcare Trust’s new hub
‘Made in Northumbria’ protective gowns are making their way to the front line - thanks to the opening of a new manufacturing and distribution hub in Cramlington.
Plans for the facility were announced by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust when it revealed it was working with other NHS organisations, businesses and volunteers to find ways to boost supplies of gowns for its staff and beyond.
The new facility, leased from local firm Wingrove Motor Company, has been transformed in a matter of weeks and is now home to cutting tables and 18 sewing machines and other essential equipment.
Threading up their sewing machines and raring to go are 18 experienced machinists – with around 12 starting this week - all stitching, with love, around 6,000 gowns a week.
The machinists came forward to help after hearing the trust was looking for people to make gowns and scrubs.
Some machinists are employed by Northumbria Healthcare and some are volunteers.
It takes around 8-10 minutes to sew one gown. The material used for the gown is a laminated spunbond nonwoven fabric.
The gowns will then be checked, packed and distributed to the trust’s sites in North Tyneside and Northumberland. As production kicks-in, the gowns will also be distributed to other health and care organisations in the region.
Chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Sir James Mackey, said: “We have had an unbelievable response from local businesses, organisations and volunteers, and what you see here is a real testament to them and our teams in the trust. To get to where we are now in a matter of weeks - and during such a pressured time - is just incredible. I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has enabled us to turn this idea into reality.
“The gowns, which are being produced here, will help to keep our front line teams safe and, by being in control of supply - from design to the front line - we can be more self-sufficient, ensure sustainable supplies going forward and reduce our carbon footprint by keeping production as local as is possible. We are going to be living with the virus for some time, so this sustainability is really important, but we also see a future for this beyond COVID-19.”
The hub is now at the heart of a wider network of businesses which has grown over the past two months after the trust asked for help to boost protective gown supplies.
The network now includes 35 factories and partners across the country, including John Lewis and Northumbria University. They will make around 65,000 gowns a week for the NHS in the north east – bringing the total of gowns being produced for the north east up to around 71,000, per week.
The gowns from these factories are now being delivered to the hub and then distributed across the trust and the wider region.
The manufacturing hub will run for an initial three months but it is hoped that it will continue beyond COVID-19 to ensure a more sustainable and local supply of protective gowns and support for the local economy.