A group of Birmingham women have stepped in to provide NHS workers with essential scrubs, as the government continues to fall short of delivering vital PPE to frontline staff.

Despite being hit financially and socially by the coronavirus crisis, a team of women from across the city have joined forces to help coordinate the production and distribution of scrubs.

Scrubs are the sanitary clothing worn by surgeons, nurses, physicians and other workers involved in patient care in hospitals.

With the national ‘Clap for the NHS’ campaign and slogans such as ‘Stay at Home: Save Our NHS’ popular in current lexicon,  it would easy to assume that NHS staff therefore have all they need to do their jobs.

However, the existence of national groups like For The Love of Scrubs – Our NHS needs you tells a different story.

The online group currently has over 45,000 members and their sole purpose is to provide scrubs to NHS staff in need. Hospital workers across the country have been relying heavily on public support following a failure by authorities to secure ample and correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Who are the Brummie volunteers?

Chanel Morrison-Jolley helps organise Birmingham volunteers create scrubs for NHS workers Supplied
Chanel Morrison-Jolley helps organise Birmingham volunteers to create scrubs for NHS workers

The group has also evolved into having smaller chapters across the country, including in the Midlands. Mum-of-three Chanel Morrison-Jolley is the coordinator of the Birmingham branch. She told us about the generous efforts of everyday people where the government is falling short.

“We receive direct requests from these NHS staff members in need of scrubs in Birmingham, Walsall, Sutton and Solihull. There are volunteers that deliver, cut patterns, cut fabric, sew scrubs and scrub bags.

“However, we don’t have all we need. A crowdfunding page has been set up to raise money towards the fabric needed to make these. So far we have over £1,00 towards our 5k target.

“A local fabric shop is offering the material at fifth of its normal price and we have volunteers ready to go.

“Any clinician is supposed to change their scrubs a number of times in any one shift. I receive requests from nurses at hospitals working directly with coronavirus patients who do not have scrubs. These people are just like me, they go home to families and children who they are putting at risk.”

Bernadette holding scrubs and one of her prom dressesSupplied
Birmingham dressmaker Bernadette White holds up fabric to make scrubs and one of her prom dresses

The West Midlands people volunteering for ‘For the Love of Scrubs’ come from all sections of the community, and are all individuals who have been negatively affected by the lockdown.

Bernadette White is a dressmaker at Bernie the Dressmaker in Kingstanding. She has lost much of her usual business of wedding and prom dresses that would normally be keep her busy at this time of the year, so she offered to voluntarily sew much-needed scrubs instead.

Bernadette said: “I have loved sewing from the age of 12. I got involved in the scrubs project because during these unprecedented times we all have to do whatever we can to help all frontline workers.

“My business is closed. All events are cancelled or delayed. This project has stopped me going mad with boredom. We need as much help as possible across all levels of skills not just sewers.  We need delivery and collection drivers too. Please get involved.”

Bernadette White from Kingstanding sewing vital scrubs for NHS staff during the coronavirus crisis Supplied
Bernadette White from Kingstanding sewing vital scrubs for NHS staff during the coronavirus crisis

With many ordinary taxpayers are currently going above and beyond to assist NHS staff, while themselves making do on less or no income and concerned about losing businesses and homes, the government has received criticism for awarding Members of Parliament an additional £10,000 allowance.

MPs will have access to an additional 10k on top of their average basic salary of 80k (before expenses), to adjust to working from home.

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Angering many – including healthcare workers – hundreds of thousands have signed a petition against the move. Responding in comments alongside the petition, many have cited the record of Conservative MPs voting against pay rise for nurses.

Weighing in on the controversy, Birmingham sewing coordinator Chanel Morrison-Jolley said, “I am outraged to be honest. This money should be spent on the people that are risking their lives, instead people like me are having to step in.”

Completed scrubs all packaged and ready to mail put to NHS staff across the Midlands Supplied
Completed scrubs all packaged and ready to mail put to NHS staff across the Midlands

How lack of PPE contributes towards the spread of COVID-19

Illustration of COVID-19, created by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)CDC
Illustration of COVID-19, created by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, doctors and nurses have been very vocal about the unacceptable risks they are having to take over lack of protective equipment.

The virus spreads from person to person via small droplets which are released in a cough, sneeze or exhale, or by touching an object or surface where droplets have landed.

Infection is then spread when people touch their eyes, nose or mouth, after coming into contact with an infected surface – making the need for protective equipment highly important. If PPE is not present, or not changed at recommended intervals, this can contribute to the virus spreading.

Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, which represents grassroots medics, told the Guardian:

“The longer this epidemic goes on for, if doctors feel that there is a widespread lack of personal protective equipment [PPE], then some doctors may feel they have no choice but to give up the profession they love, because they feel so abandoned by not being given the PPE that the World Health Organization recommends.

“That’s the travesty of this situation, that the government needs to protect frontline health workers and in return they will give 100%. But the government hasn’t kept its side of the bargain with NHS staff by not having enough PPE available to safeguard the health of doctors and nurses,” he said.

NHS staff at Walsall Manor Hospital in limited protective wear Supplied
NHS staff at Walsall Manor Hospital in limited protective wear

To volunteer with the Birmingham branch of ‘For the Love of Scrubs’, join their Facebook group here.
To contribute to their crowdfunding appeal, you can donate to the Birmingham appeal on JustGiving.


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