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CASE STUDY: Creating Northumbria NHS Trust’s own PPE factory


Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation worked with local industry in North East England to create its own PPE factory in response to the Covid-19 outbreak and a nationwide shortage of PPE, producing isolation gowns for its own staff and other local trusts.

Northumbria Healthcare’s Director of Finance, Paul Dunn, explained that in March 2020 the Trust started raising concerns about availability of isolation gowns in particular.

“A few phone calls asking for support grew to a whole new network, incorporating businesses across the North East, which came together to address the shortages,” he said.

“We wanted to grow our own supplies to protect our staff and we’re very keen to provide job opportunities locally.”

Sarah Rose, managing director at Lucas Jacob Ltd and director of Hobart Rose, volunteered her time and 27 years of industry expertise, to help establish the new manufacturing hub based in Cramlington, which opened on May 6. The base currently has 13 machinists working in the hub producing up to 1,000 gowns per day, which is set to increase 35 machinists in the weeks to come.

She helped to develop a local network of factories (there are approximately 25 working with the project now) with the correct audit procedures, as well as to source machinery and equipment to be purchased by the trust. They are currently producing up to 300,000 gowns per week through the new PPE factory and the network of suppliers. They also have plans to extend production into masks and other types of gowns.

“We invested in sonic welding machines and sourced the specialist spunbond material that you need to make the gowns and we have forecasted to March next year to ensure the supply of raw materials,” said Sarah. “We have not bought that far forward as yet but we do have factory commitment for capacity for our needs.”

Paul said: “There is a huge demand for supplies globally which creates a challenge for us. This means we can manage supply, from design to the front-line. We are intending to continue production beyond Coivd-19, which will provide a boost to the local economy, enable us to be more self-sufficient, and reduce carbon footprint. By taking production in-house, it also means we can create PPE which better suits our needs.”

Sarah said: “It has been incredible to see the local business community pull together at what is a hard time for them too to help our front-line workers.”

Adam Mansell, CEO of the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT), said: “This is a fantastic example of how the NHS can work with local industry to meet critical needs. Paul and Sarah said they are happy to give advice to other organisations on how they can take initiatives like this forward to set them up locally, which is great news for our industry.”