The UK is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the NHS is suffering a national shortage of the PPE equipment desperately needed to protect frontline workers. NHS trusts are desperate for face shields, masks, gloves and hand sanitiser.
Companies and individuals across the UK are helping with the fight against the virus and creating new supply lines to support the NHS. ShieldNHS was formed as a non-profit temporary organisation to help shield our NHS in their fight against COVID-19 by providing them with single time use face shields.
Why Are Face Shields Important?
Helping our NHS workers have the correct equipment is a crucial part of the battle we are all now involved in against the virus. Keeping them safe and lowering their chance of infection will help to keep them working in our wards where they want to be during the pandemic.
Face Shields are an important part of front-line PPE (personal protective equipment) kits that are needed by our NHS staff. They protect the wearers face and mucous membranes against droplets from coughs and sneezes and when used with other PPE equipment such as FFP3 face masks significantly reduce the risk of infection.
It is crucial as we reach a peak in cases of COVID-19 that we keep as many NHS staff on the front line as possible helping to save lives.
Finding a Design
In our search for the most practical, scalable and affordable route to mass production we discovered the Badger Shield which had been created and tested by Delve. Released as an open-source design for the world to use, Jesse Darley designed the Badger Shield and created a manufacturing process to produce face shields for Wisconsin University Hospital in America.
Jesse has been instrumental in helping with a worldwide movement to create shields and help with the current global PPE shortage. She also put some of our team in touch with each other after they approached her individually.
After studying the design and researching materials and production sources our team decided to split the effort into two fronts, mass production and home / small scale production.
Manufactures and suppliers across the UK were contacted and the materials for our first two test runs were sourced.
Funding For the Project
At this point, a Charitable Trust from Oxford who was also researching the best route to UK mass production of PPE got in touch with us. They agreed to fund our initial test runs of shield production and have since gone on to allocate funding for a further 40,000 shields.
Alongside support from UK suppliers and manufacturers who worked hard to give us discounts on all the materials we required and produce them safely for us with limited staff.
Seeking Approval for our Face Shields
With funding and production in place, it was time to seek approval from individual NHS hospital trusts to allow us to supply them with the face shields.
Papworth hospital was one of the first to be able to accept our donation of shields and another trust soon came on board.
With our first recipients in place, we worked through our manufacturing safety protocols and immediately created working prototype shields for testing.
After a few tweaks in production and the shield design, we were ready for our first two batches totalling 2000 shields to be produced. They were quickly and safely assembled and sent to the hospitals.
Our Badger Shields were accepted for adoption by two infectious control teams and the first two batches of 2000 shields made their way onto the wards and started to help save lives.
They have so far received very positive feedback and we are now excited and ready to move onto the next step in our plan.
Mass Production of Face Shields
Our next task was to work out the most cost-effective, safe and fast route to large scale production.
We decided to use a manufacturing company to produce all the components for us for the next 40,000 Face Shields.
These shields will then be assembled by a carefully selected team of home working volunteers, who will work in isolation to produce small batches of shields. With our network of volunteers, we hope to be able to produce the second batch of Shields and get them onto the front line.
We have always had safety at the forefront of our mind throughout this process. We take the safety of our NHS staff as seriously as we take COVID-19! Our team and the hospital trust are working tirelessly to produce a final revised version of the SOP which will allow us to operate safely within a standardized or widely adopted protocol created by them.
The trust is aware of the crisis facing the NHS and agrees that collaboration is the key to minimising harm. As regulations have changed and been adopted in this ongoing crisis, the NHS needs to be quick to adapt and this is part of that process.
We are also putting several safety procedures and tracking methods in place to monitor the health levels of everyone involved in the manufacturing process. Goods will be quarantined if at any point one of our manufacturing home working individuals shows any symptoms and where possible we will be using people who have strictly self-isolated for the last 10 days at least.
The Next Steps to Shield Our NHS
After the production and distribution of our next batch of 40,000 shields, we hope to scale up production even further if the demand is still present. To make as big a difference in the fight against COVID-19 we need to produce large numbers of Face Shields and keep as many NHS staff as safe as possible.
We will be seeking more funding at this point and will have a tested mass production method in place to be able to create larger numbers of shields as they are needed.
We Need Help to Shield Our NHS
We have been amazed by the response to our project and the call to arms for volunteers, the generosity of people during this crisis has been overwhelming, as has the response from front line staff to our shields. It inspires us to work harder and push our team to produce as many shields as we can in the coming weeks. If you think you can help us with either with home production or manufacturing please get in touch we would love to hear from you.