Scrubs help

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Ready, steady, sew!

Volunteers are using their love of sewing to help make scrubs for health care workers

There’s no end of people putting their skills to use during the coronavirus crisis and that includes those handy with a sewing machine who have been making scrubs for health care workers.

Madeleine Steele, pictured, is just one who has been helping. She set up the South Oxfordshire and Berkshire Scrub Hub from her home in Crowmarsh making garments and masks for the NHS and people working in social care.

She said: “It was a Facebook post on Easter Monday that I saw about people making scrubs and I thought that’s a great idea, I’ll see if I can join in. There weren’t any other ScrubHubs in our area so I called my old school friend and asked her if she wanted to set it up with me.”

The South Oxfordshire and Berkshire Scrub Hub is a network of volunteers operating in Abingdon, Didcot, Wallingford, Henley, Reading, Caversham, Woodley, Earley, Winnersh, Wokingham and Tilehurst.

Their aim is to plug the gap as an emergency helping hand by supporting our health care professionals without scrubs during the current crisis.
The volunteer network ‘who love to sew’ is operating all over the country answering calls from workers through their networks and communities. The scrubs are made to order by experienced volunteers, working safely within the guidelines of the lock down, often with donated materials.

To find out more visit scrubhub.org.uk/south-oxfordshire-berkshire

If you are member of the public and you’d like to sponsor their efforts visit the GoFundMe page.

Donations will help support the NHS Practitioners health service who care for and support the mental well being of NHS workers, who are doing such a selfless job during this time.

Facing the challenge

Local schools are supporting NHS frontline workers in the battle against coronavirus
with the production of face shields and protective screens

PPE – before the coronavirus most of us would not have heard of this or indeed be aware of its importance – now we hear of the need for it on a daily basis.

Schools across Berkshire have been working to produce face shields and screens for use in GP practices and hospitals.

One project was the brainchild of Leighton Park School’s Head of Design and Technology, Mark Smith who began making the protective wear in the Reading school’s workshop with an original target of 200.

Mark said: “We are fortunate at Leighton Park to have access to tools and resources that can make a difference and keep our keyworkers safe: I just had to do something.”

Using the laser cutter to create re-usable plastic headbands he then attached disposable A4 PVC sheets donated by Reading-based stationery suppliers Frasers Office Supplies.

A plea for additional laser cutters was met by other schools in the area and there is now a network of manufacturers involved including the University of Reading, Neal’s Export Packaging Ltd, in Silchester, and rLAB, a community workshop space.

School partners include Denefield School, Edgbarrow School, Prospect School, Reading Blue Coats, Shiplake College, Holme Grange School, The Forest School, Brackenhale School, Waingels College, The Bulmershe School, Luckley House, Warriner School, Little Heath, Ranelagh and St Joseph’s College.

Since starting production on April 2nd they have supplied more than 80 organisations with shields.

The Oratory school near Woodcote has also risen to the challenge to help the local community after it was approached by Dr Amanda Gemmill, a GP and the school’s Head of PSHE. She asked the Design LabOratory to construct protective screens for the Goring and Woodcote surgeries to offer protection to reception staff.

The Design LabOratory began with three polycarbonate screens which were installed on a Saturday to ensure the surgery was not disrupted.

Word of the screens spread and Strawberry Hill Medical Centre in Newbury put in a request which required more material and a more robust construction. They have since made screens for surgeries in Woodcote, Goring, Newbury, Henley, Wokingham and Abingdon with orders from two practices in Oxford.

The Design LabOratory is now producing face shields with the use of 3D printers and has delivered to medical practices in Woodcote and Goring, to Marcham Road Surgery in Abingdon, Sue Ryder in Nettlebed and Townlands Hospital in Henley.

Working together

Buckinghamshire schools come together to make PPE for healthcare workers

Schools and colleges across the county have been playing their part to support the NHS and other local health services to help keep frontline staff safe. Using their 3D printers they have created safety visors for the NHS and donated PPE equipment to support healthcare staff.

Thanks to the fantastic work of schools from all parts of the county, hundreds of visors have been produced and distributed to frontline healthcare professionals. Many local businesses played their part too, donating items such as lab coats, goggles and gloves, after hearing about the work schools were doing from parents or teachers.

Many schools across the county, including Buckingham School, Stowe School, Westbury School, Sir Thomas Fremantle School, Holmer Green School, Sir William Borlase’s School, Wycombe Grammar School, Wycombe High School, Highworth Combined School and Sir William Ramsay School have also produced (using their 3D printers) or donated essential PPE equipment such as goggles and lab coats.

Buckinghamshire UTC has also donated 30 protective goggles and their Principal Sarah Valentine personally bought six lab coats from Amazon for delivery to Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Cllr Anita Cranmer, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “I’m hugely impressed by the time, effort and heart that our education community has put into creating and donating PPE for our healthcare workers.

“This is a fantastic example of how Buckinghamshire is coming together and a tribute to our hardworking and dedicated healthcare workers who are helping to keep us all safe during these challenging times. Another amazing initiative that shows just how #ProudofBucks we are.”

In addition, Aylesbury High School, The Grange School in Aylesbury, Beachborough School at Westbury, and the University of Buckingham have also got involved in the production and donation of PPE to local NHS trusts.

Vince Murray, Headteacher of The Grange School, said: “As a school we were more than willing to respond to the call for PPE equipment through the collection of goggles and laboratory coats. It was also lovely to see some of our students making ‘scrub bags’ for the NHS, alongside their teacher (Miss Friend) while they were in school.

“We see ourselves as a community school. We were only too happy to contribute, in a small way, to maintaining the safety of other key workers looking after those in our hospitals, and providing essential care for others at a time when they need it most.”

Scrubs help

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Sew essential

Mel Downing is one of a consortium of local curtain makers who came together to make scrubs for healthcare workers

At the end of March we were aware there was a real shortage of scrubs – all healthcare workers were going to need them and due to the contagious nature of Covid-19 would need several sets each and wash bags for them to be put in once taken off and laundered.

A consortium of local curtain makers set up a Justgiving page to raise money to buy rolls of washable polycotton, within days we had raised a few thousand. The total now is more than £15,000.

I have run Melanie Downing Interiors, a busy curtain design company for 25 years and one of my blind makers Julie Knaggs had trained as a pattern cutter. We decided the best way forward was to bulk cut the fabric and then hand out kits for people to sew depending on their skills.

This saved us so much time and also very little wasted fabric. It was really important we sent out beautifully made scrubs that were made to last. We created a Facebook page and very quickly had an army of more than 80 volunteers from curtain makers, dress makers, costume makers, and even a tutu maker.

Local hubs were established in Farnham, Guildford, Haslemere, Petersfield, Petworth and Godalming to try and reduce journeys and volunteer drivers co-ordinated delivery and collection.

Realising the phenomenal demand we also enlisted the help of Mint Velvet who delivered 800 sets to Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford, for us.
We have supplied more than 2,500 sets to The Royal Surrey, Frimley Park, Basingstoke Hospital and Hospice, Haslemere, Petworth, Milford and Alton Community Hospitals, Phyllis Tuckwell, Marie Curie, Macmillan, Meath Home, Ticehurst Care Home, Aldershot Community team and numerous GP surgeries as well as several private requests.

It has been an incredible logistical challenge to achieve so much in such a short space of time but worth it to know it is being used.

There are so many talented people in the area and the team spirit has just been such a positive experience. I feel lucky to have been able to use my business experience and skills to co-ordinate such an important project with the help of so many really amazing people.

We are now starting to make masks which will be distributed primarily via local food banks and hope these will be sent out with a wash bag and soap stressing the importance of continued hand washing.

Most of the professional seamstresses in the team are currently unable to work due to restrictions re visiting people’s homes but hoping we can soon get back to work!

Contact Mel Downing – www.melaniedowning.co.uk 01428 713868; Coleen Smart – www.honeybeehandmade.co.uk 01483 577168; Caroline Lockie – Sewn – 01483 425577; Jo Martin – www.josephineellen.co.uk; Julie Knaggs – www.montaguesadles.co.uk

Stitches in time

A teacher has set up a volunteer sewing group to make scrubs for health care workers

Sewing enthusiasts have been taking to their machines to answer the call for scrubs, masks, scrub bags and gowns to help support front line workers.

Head of Design & Technology at Glebelands School in Cranleigh, Tamsin Mitchell (pictured), heard local frontline workers were faced with a drastic shortage of scrubs, masks, and similar equipment, and decided to pitch in.

Having seen a Facebook post from a nurse who works for Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, she contacted her to see if there was anything she could sew to help.

“She wanted scrubs bags, so people can change at hospital and take their uniform home in the bag and pop it straight in the wash. I went online to see if I could get more people on board, and I found a national group called For the Love of Scrubs. They had subpages for local areas, and there wasn’t one for Cranleigh. So I volunteered.”

Tamsin formed NHS Sewing Cranleigh and Dorking to mobilise local sewing enthusiasts including Glebelands pupils. The group already has more than 65 members, who have together produced items for St Joseph’s Specialist School and College and more than half a dozen other local organisations, including care homes and medical practices.

Tamsin said: “It’s a real community effort. Everyone is stepping up to the plate and helping each other. In a time of need, it’s the practical and creative skills that make a difference.”

Anyone in need of items or wanting to join the group should contact Tamsin through the NHS Sewing Cranleigh and Dorking group on Facebook.

Supporting Surrey SAR

The science department at King Edward’s Witley donates PPE to Surrey Search & Rescue

In 2010, relies solely on donations to purchase vital lifesaving equipment and provide training for its team.King Edward’s Witley has delivered much-needed supplies of personal protective equipment in response to an urgent appeal from Surrey Search & Rescue.

Woking-based charity, Surrey SAR – a voluntary specialist search team – posted a request on Facebook for vital supplies of PPE to protect their responders as they help Surrey Police and the county council at this time, checking on the welfare of vulnerable members of the community.

King Edward’s science department technician, Alison Hill sourced, sterilised and packed boxes of protective goggles and disposable gloves which were given to the charity.

Head of Science, Jim Culbert said they were delighted to be able to support Surrey SAR: “This is an amazing organisation. During the current coronavirus pandemic, Surrey Search & Rescue is playing a pivotal role in checking on the welfare of those who are deemed particularly susceptible to the virus, ensuring they remain well and lending a caring and sympathetic ear when people need it most.”

Surrey SAR assists the emergency services in the search for missing vulnerable adults and children. Volunteers, assisted by search dogs and drones, deliver an on-call response service 24 hours a day across Surrey and surrounding areas, when the emergency services need their specialist skills.

On average 2,100 people go missing in Surrey each year and as such Surrey SAR is one of the busiest search & rescue teams in the UK. The charity, which was formed in 2010, relies solely on donations to purchase vital lifesaving equipment and provide training for its team.

You can donate or read more about Surrey Search and Rescue here.

Could you help Citizens Advice?

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The dedication of staff and volunteers at local charity Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale has allowed it to continue giving advice to those in need at this time.

The team rallied to ensure as many people as possible could be helped over the phone or through webchat. Two weeks into the lockdown, 70 volunteer advisers were operating the Advice Line service from their homes.

As part of Volunteers’ Week, which runs from June 1st to 7th, Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale wants to thank its 150 volunteers for their contribution not only during this exceptional time but throughout the year. Between them they contribute more than 1,000 hours to helping people each week.

In the last year it has helped over 11,000 people with problems such as debt, housing, benefit and employment issues.

Volunteer Virginia Parker, a specialist benefits adviser in the Abingdon office, said: “I get enormous pleasure in helping people in difficult circumstances to understand and get what they are entitled to.

“It can be very daunting to ask for help, so we do our best to put people at ease and help them through the process. There is nothing more rewarding than helping people to resolve their problems so they can move ahead with their lives.”

Jon Bright, chief officer at South and Vale, said: “Throughout the year our wonderful volunteers contribute their time and energy to make a huge difference to people’s lives and help keep our vital service running. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Want to volunteer?

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale, please visit their website

First aid: Shockingly simple

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Pint of Life volunteer Christopher Tancock offers invaluable advice on how to save a life 

You walk into the lounge to find your best friend unconscious, they’ve turned grey, they’re not breathing – what do you do?  

This scenario may sound unlikely, but situations like this play out every day. You can call an ambulance, but unless you can keep the casualty going in the 8-10 minutes it takes to arrive, they are unlikely to survive. 

Pint of Life aims to help prevent such situations by teaching basic first aid in local communities in a free and innovative way. The sessions demonstrate, for example, that after trying to get a response, you should check the patient’s airway and breathing. If you find they are not breathing, the best thing to do is to dial 999, get hold of a defibrillator fast and start CPR.  

The chain of survival means that for maximum chance of survival, a patient needs fast CPR, defibrillation and hospitalisation – only 40% of casualties receive CPR from passers-by in the UK. Even more frighteningly, fewer than 2% of those who need one get a defibrillator before the ambulance arrives.  

People might be afraid to use a defibrillator as they “don’t want to do it wrong” or are worried that they might get into trouble if things don’t turn out well despite their attempts. The fact is that defibrillators can boost survival rates by a huge amount. We need to overcome our fear of these life-saving devices and get to grips with the simple skills that could very well prove the difference between life and death. 

Pint of Life, run by Oxfordshire volunteer Christopher Tancock, shows communities that using a defibrillator is simple. These amazing machines just need to be switched on, after which they guide you through what you need to do (by verbal commands and prompts). Some models even give feedback about your CPR and beep to show when you need to push. None of these community defibrillators can “accidentally” shock someone who doesn’t need to be shocked, either, so they are safe – and very easy – to use. They’re available in many local communities now – in pubs, restaurants, shops and village halls 

When it comes to CPR itself, it’s just a matter of pushing on the centre of the patient’s chest hard and fast… You should aim for two compressions a second and after 30, give the patient two rescue breaths before returning to compressions. Then continue the same sequence. (With children and infants, it’s important to start with five rescue breaths before doing the 30:2 routine).  

These skills are so simple yet so effective. They could change the situation described above from a nightmare to a survival. So why not help yourself to a Pint of Life and learn how to keep someone’s glass half full!