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More than 400 Norfolk sewers mobilise to make scrubs for the NHS

PUBLISHED: 17:01 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:01 16 April 2020

Gillian Francis, who has helped to set up a Scrubs For Heroes group in Norwich. Picture; Gillian Francis

Gillian Francis, who has helped to set up a Scrubs For Heroes group in Norwich. Picture; Gillian Francis

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An army of volunteer sewers are coming to the aid of frontline health care workers by making thousands of items of personal protection equipment.

Claire Wyatt putting scrub packs together. Picture: Claire WyattClaire Wyatt putting scrub packs together. Picture: Claire Wyatt

Within two weeks of it being set up, more than 400 people from across Norfolk have signed up to Norfolk Scrubs Volunteers.

The group is part of a national network of volunteer hubs which have spawned from the For The Love Of Scrubs facebook group, which itself was set up to combat a shortfall in scrubs for frontline NHS medics.

Scrubs are the plain clothes worn by frontline health care workers, they need to changed regularly to prevent the spread of infection and have become a crucial part of PPE during the coronavirus outbreak.

Gillian Francis, 54, a teacher from Norwich who is one of Norfolk Scrubs Volunteers’ coordinators set up the local branch after joining the national group For The Love Of Scrubs, said: “I have two friends who are A&E doctors and I asked them what I could do to help, I wanted to do something locally.”

Jenny Hartt, who is one of hundreds of volunteers across Norfolk making scrubs for frontline NHS workers. Picture: Jenny HarttJenny Hartt, who is one of hundreds of volunteers across Norfolk making scrubs for frontline NHS workers. Picture: Jenny Hartt

Now, two weeks on from establishing the Norfolk group, and with the help of Claire Wyatt, Julia Wheeler, Emma Bradley and Diana Cripps, the women have had more than 400 sewers join them, raised over £9,000 for materials and have taken more than 1000 orders for scrubs, hats and uniform bags from Norfolk’s hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes.

The women have also overcome logistical barriers created by social distancing, set up a supply and distribution chain and are working with Norfolk County Council.

Mrs Francis, said the team of coordinators had been working non-stop over the past two weeks to mobilise sewers: “We have done so much and we are working constantly.

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“There’s a desperate need, we have ordered over 2,000m of fabric, all the money we raise is going into the materials, nobody is being paid for their time, we are all doing stuff for free because we can.

“Personally I work with vulnerable children and as a teacher, I know that everybody in the group admin has got commitments to other people and I think there’s something in that, we know we’re all working is hard as we can. There’s a loyalty that’s come out of the situation and it’s really nice.”

Mrs Francis said she felt the greatest need for scrubs was in the community, but said the group had taken orders from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Hellesdon Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Priscilla Bacon Lodge and James Paget University Hospital.

She said she had been surprised by the level of need: “I’m shocked, but what I do know is that hospitals tend to be the first places people donate to and actually it’s all the small medical practices and carers at home who cannot get protective stuff when they need it, so there are an awful lot of people who are without protective gear and that’s what’s upsetting me the most.

Finished scrubs hanging up on a washing line. Picture: Amanda HarroldFinished scrubs hanging up on a washing line. Picture: Amanda Harrold

“People are putting themselves and their families in incredible personal risk and that’s what really gets me, the willingness to care for other people.”

Mrs Francis said the group were gearing up for demand for scrubs to stay high for a while, she said: “It feels like we’re standing in front of a massive tidal wave and it’s going to be a lot of grieving and loss and it’s a real challenge.

She said, the pandemic had bought out people’s community spirit: “I think everyone got very cynical about Brexit but you have a situation like this and you see the good, and it’s wonderful, it’s powerful people are now going ‘what can we do to help?’”

The Scrubs for Heroes website can be found via: norfolkmakers.wixsite.com/norfolkscrubs.

Claire Wyatt with her husband Danny who has been working extremely hard to support Claire's work. Picture: Claire WyattClaire Wyatt with her husband Danny who has been working extremely hard to support Claire's work. Picture: Claire Wyatt

The group’s fundraising page can be found at: www.gofundme.com/f/norfolk-scrubs-volunteers

All donations made to the group will be put towards materials, the group are also looking for sponsors and large donors, to find out more visit the website.


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