Businesses in Heart of the South West step up to supply urgently required PPE

The call for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect the NHS and its staff has seen many businesses across the Heart of the South West adapt to help meet their community’s needs.

Some businesses have kindly donated protective equipment and others have adjusted how their organisation works to find a way to manufacture and supply essential PPE for frontline workers.

Applegate, Brixham Gin, FabLab Devon, King’s College and Princess Yachts are just a handful of businesses who have helped make a difference.

Princess Yachts has donated all its protective equipment to Plymouth City Council so its staff, care workers and NHS employees can use it in the fight against coronavirus.

The company has recognised the challenges vital organisations have in obtaining enough safety gear during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Anthony Sheriff, chief executive of Princess Yachts, said: “We hope this donation of our PPE goes some way to helping NHS staff and other such services in these incredibly difficult times. We are in regular discussions with Plymouth City Council and if we can find other ways to help in the collective effort against COVID-19 we will do whatever we can to support.”

FabLab Devon, which is part of independent charity Libraries Unlimited based in Exeter and Barnstaple, has answered the call for urgently needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required by all NHS frontline staff.

The first batch of visor attachments have been collected at the start of the month and are being dispatched to NHS staff in the local area. FabLab Devon is working alongside a team of local volunteers to 3D print PPE visors.

Steve Turner, Head of Commercial & Innovation at Libraries Unlimited said “Our physical libraries may be closed but I am inspired by the creative projects our library staff are developing and delivering.  We are finding new ways to help our local communities and this FabLab initiative is an excellent example of how libraries can support others.”

In Torbay, Brixham Gin Distillery is supplying frontline staff and keyworkers with alcohol-based hand sanitiser. The distillery has supplied local doctors’ practices and children’s services. 250 litres have been made and supplied to Britannia Royal Naval College, HMS Raleigh, Royal Mail, local care homes and food producers.

Katrina Wade from Brixham Gin Distillery said: “We have raw materials arriving next week and have orders for 750 litres from Royal Mail, Torbay Council and HMS Raleigh. We’re now able to accept orders from local businesses on a first come first served basis. In current times it has been refreshing to be able to divert our business in this way. We’re able to play a part in helping to keep local people working in essential services. We’re also donating 50p a litre of our sales to Yes Brixham Food Bank.”

And in Taunton, King’s College has produced clear breath protection shields for microscopes using their design and technology laser cutters – essential for protecting those examining samples from potential infection. Orders for the equipment have already been placed by the nearby Musgrove Park Hospital.

Design and technology technician Ross Friend said: “It’s really great to be able to assist our health professionals in some way, even if it is only something like providing them with an additional level of personal protective equipment. I’m proud to have done something to help.”

Following on from the great work done by Ross, the college’s Head of DT, Jason Grindle, has now joined in the production of PPE for frontline workers. Answering a call for help from NHS Devon, he has just produced and delivered 50 face shields for use in local pharmacies across the county.

As well as these firms stepping up to the mark to produce vital equipment, others are helping with the matching supply with demand.

Applegate, a North Devon headquartered technology business which matches suppliers with customers, has responded to news that a local nursing home was lacking PPE by setting up a dedicated C19 Supply Hub.

So far, the Hub has helped over 100 organisations, with over ten million items of protective equipment having been distributed. The free service uses AI technology that was developed in collaboration with Exeter University; and the Hub continues to grow; with new members of staff being recruited to support the care homes, hospices, schools and essential businesses using the service.

Applegate Chief Executive, Stuart Brocklehurst said: “When we heard about the lack of supply from our local MP, we were keen to use our technology to move fast and match vital products with the people who need them. Our staff have been working tirelessly including over the Easter weekend to get this equipment out. We will carry on as long as needed, and I have to say the commitment of our employees to help the community has been exemplary. We are a global company but the true spirit of the North Devon community shines through.”

Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, Karl Tucker, said: “In such challenging times it is the agile nature of these local businesses that is helping the Heart of the South West come together and join forces to use their skills where best needed. It is testament to the strength of our local business community and a great example of the wider force for good that businesses have within the wider community in such extraordinary times.”

Any business with PPE to donate to NHS services can contact the Clinical Commissioning Groups at: d-ccg.covid19PPE@nhs.net in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay; and somccg.ppecovid19@nhs.net in Somerset.

More details about the Applegate C-19 Supply Hub which matches suppliers with organisations in need are available at: www.applegate.co.uk/covid19

We will be updating stories of Heart of the South West businesses helping the appeal for PPE and other vital equipment over the coming weeks. Any businesses wishing to share their story via the LEP’s networks can email Ashley.Hoare@heartofswlep.co.uk