Leighton Park’s DT Dept Starts Face Shields  Factories across Berkshire

28 Apr 2020

An amazing initiative to help the NHS frontline tackle Covid-19 has developed into a major co-operative manufacturing  operation spanning nine schools across Berkshire!

Launched last Thursday (2nd April) by Leighton Park School’s Head of Design & Technology, Mark Smith, the idea was to create much needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPE ) to support NHS workers facing coronavirus in their workplaces. Referring to the shortage of medical PPE, Mark says, “Not every superhero wears a cape, but they do all wear masks!”

Mark began making protective face shields in the School’s DT workshop with an original target of 200: “Local Primary Care services and hospitals have been requesting support over social media to help them overcome shortages of vital protection for their frontline staff. 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.”

Mark used the laser cutter to create re-usable plastic headbands out of polypropylene stock, to which he attached disposable A4 PVC sheets donated by the school’s Reading-based stationery suppliers, Frasers Office Supplies Ltd. Currently packs are being made up in sets of 10 headbands and 100 A4 PVC sheets with the expectation that each headband can be sterilised and re-used. The large population of resident staff at Leighton Park provided willing volunteers for assembling and distributing the equipment.

“We were so relieved to receive the face shields,” said Jo Swanborough, Receptionist at Reading based GP surgery, Parkside Family Practice. “Patients who shouldn’t be here are still coming in and it’s frightening. I feel a lot more confident now. We are really, really grateful. Really I’d like to take one home with me and wear it all the time.”

“We are just so grateful,” echoed Jane Goddard, GP Surgery Practice Manager, at Westwood Road Health Centre. “We are asking our staff to put themselves at risk and I am very pleased we can now offer them some protection. When the face shields arrived I felt relief! Obviously the hospitals need to have the PPE but it means that surgeries are way down the pecking order. We have problems getting hold of masks so the face shields are a godsend.”

“I actually cried when the face shields were delivered.” laughed Gemma at Gabriels’ Angels, an in-home care service for the elderly and vulnerable. I’m so proud of all our team members doing so much, working as hard as possible, even more than they normally do. It gives us all a boost to know there are people out there who appreciate us and are helping us too.”

The original template for the face shields was created by Smoke & Mirrors, a community group for laser cutter users, in conjunction with Kitronik, a company that provides materials and equipment for the education market, who had a 3-piece design for the laser cut element. This has been modified substantially and redesigned by several skilled DT teams in a variety of schools, including Leighton Park and Abingdon School to create a 2-piece laser cut design which is both quicker to produce and more efficient as it uses less polypropylene.

So far, in addition to providing 170 face shields to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where they are in use in ICU and on some of the wards, and 500 to the Urgent Care Unit at Berkshire Healthcare Trust, the School has supplied a hospice, fourteen GP surgeries and three other public facing organisations who care for vulnerable people. A total of 1,550 face shields have been manufactured so far and 1,413 distributed. More and more requests are coming in as news spreads and the School is keen to meet demand. The new target is to create 10,000!

A GoFundMe page was set up last Friday to help cover the cost of materials (see bit.ly/LP4NHS) and has almost reached £10k!

A plea for access to additional laser cutters has been met with a fabulous response from eight other schools across Berkshire. This means that production is not limited to the capacity of Leighton Park’s laser cutter. Those keen to help make a difference and contribute their laser cutting resources include Denefield School, Prospect School, Reading Blue Coat School, Holme Grange, Forest School, Brakenhale School, Edgbarrow School and Waingels College.

The intention is that Leighton Park will supply materials and the cutting template to other schools and any other organisations who are able to get involved. They will manufacture the headbands on their laser cutters and Leighton Park will collect the machined headbands. Back at Leighton Park, packs of 10 bands/100 sheets will be assembled and distributed to where there is need within the NHS and to other keyworker organisations.

If you have access to a laser cutter and want to get involved, please email faceshields@leightonpark.com with your contact details.

We also want to hear from NHS organisations who need face shields. Please email faceshields@leightonpark.com with details of your requirements.

To make a donation to help cover the cost of the materials being used to create the face shields and support this initiative please do so via the GoFundMe page at bit.ly/LP4NHS


Image: NHS Nurse at Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, in a Leighton Park face shield