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College's Wisbech campus produces and donates vital PPE equipment

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Teaching staff at the College of West Anglia's Wisbech campus have been producing vital personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep those on the frontline safe during the coronavirus crisis.

The idea was the initiative of work placement and careers co-ordinator Guy Bridge, who said: "The drive to contribute in some way came from a conversation I was having with a friend who is a teacher, who works at a school where they had recently set-up PPE production.

"We really wanted to support the local community and NHS staff in any way we could and we decided we could use our state-of-the-art equipment to help protect those who are doing such a brilliant job of protecting the general public.”

Guy Bridge testing the prototype. (34081225)
Guy Bridge testing the prototype. (34081225)

With the help of engineering lecturers Simon Marriott and Steve Grief, the team dedicated their Easter holidays to working tirelessly to produce vital PPE equipment, including face shields, door openers and clips.

They initially created face shields using the state-of-the-art laser cutters and 3D printers from the campus and acetate to create a prototype.

They have also produced mask clips to protect the users’ ears from the soreness caused by the mask bands and ensure their comfort and safety.

Simon Marriot with his children. (34081253)
Simon Marriot with his children. (34081253)

Door openers and light switch operators have been created too, which the user hooks over the handle or switch in order to avoid touch contact, thus reducing the possibility of the virus spreading even further.

Since they began to look at the prototype at the start of April, they have gone from design stage, testing to optimise strength, stability, usability and comfort to producing over 400 face shields, 250 mask clips and 150 door openers for care homes, NHS hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and other organisations who have key workers in frontline healthcare positions.

Simon has two of the college’s 3D printers at his home and his son and daughter, Ryan and Summer, are helping with production of mask clips and door openers by removing and re-sending prints. Ryan is currently studying on the Anglian Water Alliance Engineering course at the college.

Simon said: “I got in contact with a lady who works at Doddington Hospital in the physiotherapy department and was asking for support with PPE. So far, we have produced and delivered over 120 mask clips and 60 door openers to the hospital, with plans to produce many more in the coming weeks.”

Door openers.
Door openers.

Simon has been inspired by his sister, who currently works as a nurse on the children’s ward at Peterborough City Hospital. He added: “I showed my sister the designs and she was very excited, as her ears have been hurting after 13-hour shifts wearing a mask. We have sent 20 mask clips and 10 door openers to the hospital, which she said have worked extremely well.”

Team member Tony Williams, who is programme manager of electrical and engineering at the college, was inspired by his daughter, who is currently working as a radiographer at Durham Hospital and has been the recipient of a number of door openers.

Tony said: “After discussing the PPE shortages with my daughter, she shared what we were doing with her colleagues, who thought they’d be great to use.”

A mask clip.
A mask clip.

Glennfield Care Home, Edina Court Care Home and Orchard House Care Home, all based in Wisbech, have all been recipients of the CWA-produced PPE equipment. So far, the team have produced and delivered over 100 face shields, mask clips and openers to each of the care homes, with plans to deliver more in the coming weeks.

Glennfield general manager Jude Reeve said: "We would like to thank the college for the kind donation. This will help to keep our staff protected and reduce the risk of pain and spreading the virus.

"The response that the college has made to the COVID-19 crisis has been amazing, and in my 40-plus years of working in the health and care sector, I have never felt so humbled by the kindness and support extended to us.”

Alan Seeley delivering face masks to Glennfield Care Home. (34081172)
Alan Seeley delivering face masks to Glennfield Care Home. (34081172)

Orchard House manager Maxine Bain said: “I can’t believe how wonderful this contribution is to the home. We have had to purchase equipment from the building industry as we have been unable to source from our usual suppliers. Thank you so much for thinking of us here to protect our residents and staff at this time.”

And college principal David Pomfret added: “I am delighted with the outstanding effort and initiative with which our staff have rallied around the local community.

"They have given up their own time and used their specialist skills and state-of-the-art equipment to provide key workers in a variety of healthcare roles with the vital equipment they need to help to protect themselves and others during this unprecedented time.”

Other CWA staff team involved in the production of PPE are Chris Rabicano, Alan Seeley, Tony Edgeley and Steve Lowery.

The college is looking to source materials from local businesses or the general public to increase production of vital PPE.

The team is specifically looking for:

  • Polypropylene sheets which are no smaller than 450mm x 800mm in any colour available and 0.5mm thick;
  • Acetate A4 sheets, the same as are used on overhead projector screens.

If you are able to donate materials or know someone who may be able to help, please contact guy.bridge@cwa.ac.uk

If you live in King's Lynn, Wisbech or the surrounding areas, the college will be able to arrange collection, in-line with Government guidelines. Alternatively, they are accepting donations by post, too.

If you would like to donate a small contribution towards buying essential material to produce vital PPE, then you can donate at gofundme.com/f/materials-for-ppe-for-the-healthcare-sector

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