What went wrong needs a proper inquiry, but what went right was the phenomenal grassroots response that came to the aid of organisations and individuals quickly and practically. Sewers have been able to use online patterns posted by professional sewing websites and, without access to the usual NHS polycotton, have made unique scrubs from duvet covers and sheets, curtains, and any spare material. All that is needed is that the fabric washes well at 60 degrees to kill the virus. I even had some blackout material, last used in the Blitz of the Second World War, donated to me for scrubs and laundry bags.
Somerset Scrubs – which I have been part of – was set up shortly after lockdown began in late March. Christine Atkins, owner of a soft furnishings business in Bruton, and Clarissa Love, a student at Bath Spa University, with a child on the COVID high-risk register, were moved by the sight of a nurse crying in her car outside a supermarket and wanted to help. They opened a Facebook page and in 6 days raised £6,500, enough to order rolls of NHS grade polycotton at a discount from a manufacturer in Lincolnshire.
Somerset Scrubs began with one group of sewers – about ten people – and quickly burgeoned to 9 groups sewing scrubs, plus one making laundry bags, and another delivering scrubs and bags around the county. More than a 100 people were involved, able directly and quickly to send the items that were needed, in the right sizes, to local hospitals, care homes, doctor’s surgeries, vets, health visitors, mental hospitals, midwives, charities working with refugees, end of life care teams and, in fact, anyone with a frontline role.
Clarissa says: “So far we have made over 700 sets of scrubs and over 2,000 bags. Some of the people who have been given our scrubs have said how much well-made they are, better than the official ones, which is lovely. I’m lucky enough to see the gratitude of the people who get our scrubs every day, one lady just wrote: “thank you so, so, so much, this means the world to me to know that people are thinking of us.”. We will go on making scrubs until we aren’t needed anymore and all the frontline workers can carry out their jobs safely.”