Herefordshire Council continues to work closely with care homes and providers to provide high volumes of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help keep residents safe and to protect staff. It has also been working with local businesses to identify new and emerging technology and supplies to help support the local response. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Herefordshire Council has supplied over 6 million items of PPE free of charge to care homes and care providers across the county. This included 12,000 reusable face shields produced in partnership with NMITE (New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering) which were designed to be both environmentally friendly and cost competitive compared to a single use, disposable version. NMITE diverted its academic staff with engineering and manufacturing backgrounds into the production of PPE to support the local response and converted its administration offices into a makeshift factory and partnered with local businesses.
Ian Chapman, who has been heading up PPE production at NMITE said: “At the start of the pandemic NMITE turned its attention to producing much needed PPE. Like many, we started out using the relatively simple method of 3D printing which enabled us to make up to 500 items per week. When Herefordshire Council ordered 12,000 face shields to be delivered in six weeks, we needed to change our manufacturing process. At the same time new legislation for face shields meant that they now needed to be tested by the British Standards Institute in order to secure CE marking. Our solution was to modify our design, change the manufacturing method to injection moulding and collaborate with Rotherwas based companies Pearsons Tooling and TRP Polymer Solutions Ltd. We achieved CE marking on 3 June 2020.”
Chapman explains that the visors are 33% thinner and smaller than most therefore using less plastic while the injection moulding process means no waste material. Reusability has been achieved by using hospital grade polypropylene, by using silicon straps instead of cotton and by not including foam in the design (both of which would hold moisture) and by adhering to a technical specification for a method of cleaning already used in local hospitals. “We now have capability to produce in excess of 12,000 face shields per week if required, and our 3D design has been sent to INBRAAerospace, Sau Paulo, Brazil for them to produce and circulate as an open design to help Brazil’s Covid-19. response.”
Paul Smith, Assistant Director All Ages Commissioning, Herefordshire Council who has been overseeing the PPE production partnership with NMITE said: “Herefordshire Council continues to work closely with care homes and providers to provide high volumes of PPE to help keep residents safe and to protect staff. While Herefordshire Council has been working closely with NMITE for some time, the PPE production partnership has been my first personal experience of working with what is set to be the county’s new engineering higher education institute.”
Smith continues “I’m delighted to report that it has been a wholly positive experience - everything from our initial inquiry for NMITE to produce 12,000 face shields, through to production and delivery of the finished high-quality product has worked seamlessly. The face shields NMITE has provided are being distributed to care homes and homecare agencies across Herefordshire and form an important part of the 6 million pieces of PPE that the Council has supplied free of charge to care providers during the Covid-19 pandemic.”