Bath’s universities and local volunteers have come together to make medical gowns to help protect staff at the Royal United Hospitals Bath (RUH) from coronavirus.
Using a pattern created by engineers from the University of Bath, a group of local sewists is set to start stitching together gowns at Bath Spa University’s Sion Hill campus.
The RUH has supplied them with the specific material that gowns must be made from to effectively protect medical staff. The team, who have already begun work from their homes, currently have enough material to create around 4,000 gowns.
Tracey Proudman, who is a member of the sewing team, is well-placed to take part as she normally works for a bridalwear company. She said: “The NHS staff in Bath are doing such great work, so we’re just trying to do our bit. I’m keeping myself occupied with some worthwhile work so I’m just happy to be involved.”
Following social distancing rules, the group will use sewing machines at Bath Spa University’s Sion Hill campus, which are normally used by fashion students. Teams of volunteers, six cutting and up to four sewing, will work to produce the gowns on a two-shift system each day. Others will work from home.
The project is an extension of the University of Bath’s ongoing effort to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare staff at the RUH and around the city. So far, a team based out of the University’s Faculty of Engineering & Design have provided over 30,000 pieces of PPE, including face shields and eye protectors, to the hospital, to GPs and with the help of Bath & North East Somerset Council (B&NES), to care homes and pharmacies. Equipment has also been shared with Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Trust to allow staff there to continue their work.
Dr Elise Pegg, a lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, created the pattern for the gowns after the University was approached by the RUH. She says: “I am a keen sewist so when the RUH approached our team making PPE to see if we could help with gowns, I happily offered my help.
“We created the pattern from a gown they sent up to us, but the real work has been done by Tracey and the sewists, who were so quick to agree to help. Over the weekend they made 100 gowns which the RUH staff have now tested and they’ve been vital in finding people with the right skills to help, so they deserve a huge thank you.”
Kerry Curtis, Head of Bath School of Design says: “It is an honour to be working collaboratively with the University of Bath to help protect the city’s incredible key workers. We are very proud of our colleagues and community of helpers who have rallied together at this truly unique time. Together we can make a difference.”
As well as these latest endeavours, Bath Spa University is also working with locals to print patterns for medical protective scrubs.
James Scott, Chief Executive of the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re really grateful to both the University of Bath and Bath Spa University, and of course the volunteers sewing the gowns, for their help. This effort will help our teams to care for our patients and staff and keep them safe.”
The team behind the PPE production effort at the University of Bath have repeated their call for donations of acetate sheet, as well as refreshments for volunteers. They have set up a website, www.bathppe.co.uk, which has contact information and instructions for organisations wishing to use their design to create face shields and eye protectors.