An inventive teacher from a Church of England school in Stockton-upon-Tees has used her practical skills to manufacture 120 full-face shields for NHS medical staff.
Mrs Emma Henshaw - who is Head of Design & Technology at Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy - utilised materials from the school's DT department to design the critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for those serving on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19.
Emma said: “With so many front line medical professionals working so hard to care for and treat people with COVID19, we wanted to help in any way we could. The NHS need personal protective equipment in order to stay safe and save lives.
“Face shields have been in high demand but short supply. The face shield needs to be lightweight, comfortable for all users and provide additional protection to the face mask and goggles already being worn.
“This meant that the headband needed to be flexible, adjustable and hygienic. A 3 part strap was laser cut using polypropylene and slotted together making assembly and material management quick and efficient. The clear visor was then cut by hand, hole punched and slotted onto the tabs on the front band. The front band sits away from the face allowing enough room for goggles and a face mask. The materials can be sanitised repeatedly to ensure the face shields can be used again and again.”
The face-shields were initially offered only to North Tees NHS Hospital and a couple of doctors surgeries, but then word got out. Now, with a surge in demand for the equipment, the Emma is working flat-out to meet the need.
Emma added: “Never before have we been able to work on such an important real-life project that can make a difference in our local community. Many of the 120 face shields has been given to North Tees hospital, with the remainder being distributed to local surgeries and clinics. A true example of design and technology in action.”
Emma's heroic effort comes as doctors and nurses across the country lament the excruciating shortage of suitable PPE. The scarcity has meant medical staff are often forced to care for COVID-19 patients without suitable protection, putting them at grave risk.
“Lack of personal protective equipment continues to be a critical issue. It is heartbreaking to hear that some staff have been told to simply ‘hold their breath’ due to lack of masks,” Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, the president of the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), told the Guardian.
“Doctors are dying. Nurses are dying. We are devastated, and can no longer stand by and watch as more dedicated colleagues lose their life."
After conducting a survey of 193 hospital trusts and GP practices, DAUK found that 72% of doctors cannot get hold of an FFP3 mask when they need one, 77% are reporting shortages of long-sleeved gowns and 43% are often unable to obtain a visor or goggles when they are required.
The UK now has over 55,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with more than 6,000 deaths.