The Covid Response Team
On 23 March, the Prime Minister announced lockdown, confining people to their homes and closing non-essential businesses and retail shops. During his speech, Boris Johnson made it clear that he wanted British manufacturing to continue to work, primarily to maintain the economy but also, where possible, to support the fight against this new pandemic.
On the Heathcoat Fabrics site well-prepared plans were immediately put in place to protect their workforce, implementing a raft of measures to streamline essential production processes, enable staff to work from home, set up one-way routes through buildings and apply strict distancing and hygiene protocols. We then set to work to establish exactly what the company could supply or produce to assist in meeting the urgent demands of our National Health Service and other key medical, emergency and care personnel. The Covid Response Team was set up to coordinate these activities.
Once a major supplier of healthcare fabrics to the NHS, around 25 years ago Heathcoat, along with other British textile manufacturers, lost this business to low-cost overseas supply. Since then focus within the healthcare market has been mainly on technical fabrics for patient handling (lifting slings, sliders), seating and mattress support.
Identifying the immediate need in response to the coronavirus crisis, the Response Team made direct contact with government bodies, NHS England, local government, trade associations and individuals, putting together a ‘Covid Response Pack’ of 20 products available from stock, to fulfil immediate requirements.
It soon became obvious; the focus of demand was fabric for scrubs and masks. We also heard the plea of the care community of being overlooked for both of these requirements.
Mark Drysdale, Commercial Manager for Protective Fabrics
“In offering our help and expertise, we have been in regular contact with the HMG Commercial Response Team at the Cabinet Office, along with suppliers and manufacturers. Heathcoat Fabrics is actively involved helping to provide immediate supply of PPE in this current crisis and is working with the UK industry on a long-term strategy to ensure that any shortages in PPE provision will be a thing of the past”.
Our 100% English Cotton product, more usually associated with luxury sheeting for an iconic London store, was soon being diverted and made into a surgical-style, non-medical face mask which has been made available free to care workers and independent residential facilities. The initial uptake was huge, and the masks very positively received. A navy blue Nomex mask has been added to this offer and output increased to meet demand.
These masks are available to purchase for businesses looking to add an additional layer of protection for their staff, ahead of an ease in the lockdown and a return to work.
Whilst not currently manufacturing the standard poly/cotton fabrics which the NHS specify for scrubs, a number of fabrics were available from stock that could be used for scrubs. These are currently used for industrial PPE garments, police, utilities workers and firefighters, and included a 150gsm Nomex® Comfort fabric in Royal Blue and Navy. From this fabric, sample scrubs were produced and then sets of scrubs were made for Specialist Registrars, Doctors and Consultants at a local hospice. Feedback was positive and complimented the comfort/feel/make-up of the garments which after washing at 60˚C and tumble dry, looked the same as new. As well as offering these fabrics to the NHS, rolls are being donated to local teams making scrubs for other Hospices and care facilities. Other fabrics, including our lightweight parachute range, are undergoing testing for surgeon’s gowns.
Heathcoat has always been at the forefront of textile innovation and our renowned Research & Development team have pulled out all the stops to develop a Covid-beating fabric, to be announced in the coming weeks.
John Stimpson – Business Manager for Woven Fabrics
“We desperately wanted to add antiviral functionality to our face mask products to reduce the risk of self and cross contamination whilst at the same time maintaining durability, especially to washing. The system that we are trialling literally attracts and kills viruses which is important with regards to maximising breathability without compromising filtration performance”.
For further information or to purchase our textile face masks: