Cotswold businesses helping key workers: PPE, hand sanitisers and more

Orthotropic Engineering director Matthew Dawson with one of their face visors (GWP Group and Orthotr

Orthotropic Engineering director Matthew Dawson with one of their face visors (GWP Group and Orthotropic Engineering) - Credit: Archant

From 3D-printed visors and scrub production to hand sanitisers and IT support, Cotswold businesses and communities are rallying to help our key workers

Sibling Distillery hand sanitiser

Sibling Distillery hand sanitiser - Credit: Archant

In what has been a wartime-like season with the whole world fighting an invisible deadly enemy, a military operation has been required to rally troops and provide equipment.

Students, businesses, communities and families in the Cotswolds have adapted skills and equipment to play their part in helping Covid-19 frontline workers stay protected as they endeavour to save lives. It is indeed a lifeline of hope in a situation which has felt like we’re living in a sci-fi movie. But the following shows what amazing good can be done when people work together.

Making and donating scrubs

After losing a friend to coronavirus, Gloucester-based Royal tailor Emma Willis, MBE, who makes £350 shirts for Prince Charles, is celebrating a new range – scrubs for county hospital staff.

Her fashion house, which usually sells garments in London’s upmarket Jermyn Street, has launched a Justgiving page to help raise £30,000 to fund the scrub manufacturing. The wardrobe department at Cirencester-based The Barn Theatre has also put its sewing skills to good use. Wardrobe supervisor Denise Cleal noticed a plea from Facebook group Cheltenham and Cirencester Scrubbers – For The Love Of Scrubs NHS, highlighting the lack of scrubs in local surgeries and hospitals country-wide. Together with wardrobe assistant Bridget Griffiths, Denise decided that whilst the theatre was temporarily closed they would work at hand-making scrubs.

Superdry shows its support for the NHS (photo: Superdry Creative Centre)

Superdry shows its support for the NHS (photo: Superdry Creative Centre) - Credit: Archant

“We are running short of scrubs on the frontline. I’m so proud of the wardrobe department at the Barn Theatre for stepping up and offering their services to make scrubs for local surgeries,” says TV’s Dr Dawn Harper, an ambassador for the award-winning theatre, who has been streaming broadcasts from The Barn, answering concerns about Covid-19 via the theatre’s social media channels.

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Whilst University of Gloucestershire fashion design graduates, Emilie and Kate have been commended for returning to Park campus to work alongside teaching staff to sew new scrubs for local NHS workers, Cotswold Scrubs – a group of some 300 volunteers from textile students to experienced tailors – has already cut, completed and delivered face masks, ear savers and 280 scrub sets to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Great Western Hospital in Swindon and local care homes. They’ve now teamed up with Cotswold Printing Company in Quedgeley to automate the process.

Superdry Creative Centre in Cheltenham has donated organic cotton essentials to NHS frontline workers so they can go home in fresh, new, comfortable clothes after a long shift. The company has enabled some 300,000 items of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be distributed. Meanwhile Cheltenham-based men’s grooming and skincare brand Hawkins & Brimble, has donated 20,000 face masks to Gloucestershire NHS.

Royal tailor Emma Willis is making scrubs for county hospital staff (photo: Emma Willis)

Royal tailor Emma Willis is making scrubs for county hospital staff (photo: Emma Willis) - Credit: Archant


Urgent requirement for PPE by all healthcare sectors has prompted many companies to diversify. Gloucester-based prototyping and manufacturing company Plunkett Associates, has helped scale up production of single use visors for Cardiff-based company Resource R12. Meanwhile, after crowd-funding to cover material costs, Orthotropic Engineering, based in Quenington, has joined up with local packaging supplier GWP Group to manufacture 1,000 visors using 3D printing and made their visor design available for manufacturing businesses to use.

Over in Tetbury, Ben Scrivens has been making and supplying over 120 full face shields and mask ear guards with Amy Underill and his boys Leo and Zac. With support and help of Crudwell School teachers, Tetbury Hardware Store, family and friends, they’ve provided those who need it with vital PPE. Tetbury-based William Eastlake is also helping to produce 3D printed parts. And Quattro Design Architects, based at Gloucester Docks, is using its 3D printers to provide parts for face shields. After working with the local NHS Trust to develop and approve the final design using a prototype from Balcarras School, the company has produced at least 40 face masks a week.

Lee Derbidge, owner of Gloucester business Redbridge and Sons Property Service, organised a drop off with a member of staff at Gloucestershire NHS Foundation Trust to get hundreds of vital FFP3 face masks to frontline staff. Safran, which has a base at Staverton, has partnered with sporting goods retailer Decathlon and Segula Technologies, to produce protection masks. And Inspired specialist machinery company, Rselectro-Tech from Stroud has turned its skills to producing personal protective equipment for the emergency services. “I’m so pleased that I can do something to help out the NHS during this very testing time. Last year I was diagnosed with cancer of which I am now in remission so it’s nice to give something back,” says boss Richard Smith.

GWP Group business development director Ian Heskins

GWP Group business development director Ian Heskins - Credit: Archant

Moral support and research

Leamington modular floor company, RMF Installation and Services Ltd, paid its own special tribute to the NHS by designing and forming the NHS lettering and a heart shape by moving 2,720 raised flooring panels – with a total weight of 27,200kg – into the car parking at its head offices. The image was captured by a drone.

Meanwhile a multi-site project, called What’s the STORY? has received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to assess novel coronavirus infection rates in children and teenagers across the UK. Led by Professor Matthew Snape, the team from the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, will help determine how many children and teenagers have been infected with Covid-19, and what proportion of those have had symptoms. Meanwhile, Oxford university researchers are working in an unprecedented vaccine development effort to prevent Covid-19, and have started screening healthy volunteers (aged 18-55) for their upcoming vaccine trial in the Thames Valley Region.

Dr Imran Usmani tries on a visor made by Marc Silverthorn, head of DT at Rendcomb College

Dr Imran Usmani tries on a visor made by Marc Silverthorn, head of DT at Rendcomb College - Credit: Archant


Rendcomb College catering team, near Cirencester has delivered meals to the vulnerable and to key NHS workers, whilst Marc Silverthorn, head of DT, has made visors for NHS staff. Nailsworth Chamber of Trade has partnered with chefs from Calcot Hotel & Spa and Ben’s Kitchen, Tetbury, to make £25 bundles of seven frozen meals, all profits going to feed local vulnerable people and key workers. It’s also joined a team making full-face visors and other PPE. Within one week, Gloucester-based community kitchen, The Wiggly Worm cooked over 1,200 meals at Community Kitchen, Gloucester whilst The Long Table in Stroud delivered 200 meals to NHS Staff at Cheltenham General Hospital on one day alone.


Gloucester Bike Shop has donated refurbished bikes to health and social care workers, supermarket staff and other key workers to travel to and from work. Gloucestershire Bike Project’s shop is temporarily closed but still open for emergency repairs of key workers’ bikes. Meanwhile Stagecoach West has provided free bus travel to NHS staff across Gloucestershire.

The Barn Theatre scrubs, made by Bridget Griffiths

The Barn Theatre scrubs, made by Bridget Griffiths - Credit: Archant

Hand Sanitiser Production

Distillery businesses have switched from making gin to making hand sanitiser during the Coronavirus pandemic. Sibling Gin, in Charlton Kings, Cheltenham – made up of four brothers and sisters – has provided large bulk quantities of hand sanitiser from their own alcohol to emergency services and made their product available to the public outside their distillery on Coxhorne Farm, London Road.

Born, bred and based in the Cotswolds, Richard Hine from Fostons Ash pub, near Stroud has also worked closely with his local distillery to switch from producing multi-award-winning organic gin to hand sanitiser. He has been principally supplying the NHS and frontline medical staff with the santiser, produced to WHO spec., in variable sizes: from 100ml, 200ml to 5ltrs.

Stroud-based company Nilaqua has limited edition hand santiser bottles available in support of their #ItsInYourHands campaign. Every one of these limited edition bottles that’s sold, sanitiser will be donated to local organisations. Nilaqua sanitiser is alcohol free and claims to protect hands for six hours after application.

The Barn Theatre scrubs, made by Denise Cleal

The Barn Theatre scrubs, made by Denise Cleal - Credit: Archant

Medical Equipment

Abingdon-based medical manufacturer Penlon has received approval for its Prima ES02 ventilator to be used in hospitals, whilst Gloucester-based engineering firm Poeton Industries is proudly doing its bit to supply medical equipment to the NHS. Experienced in working with mission critical components, the company’s Apticote 350 process is found on several parts that are key to the operation of the ventilator devices. And Spirax Sarco in Cheltenham, has also begun machining a critical component part for use in a device used to provide potentially life-saving oxygen to patients affected by Covid-19.

NHS Workforce

Almost 140 undergraduate nursing students from the University of Gloucestershire have joined the NHS frontline by working in hospitals, community health and primary care centres. “We are so proud of them for stepping up to meet the challenge and help to protect patients at this difficult time,” says Lorraine Dixon, head of the university’s School of Health and Social Care.

IT Support

And Cheltenham-based IT services company, Axonex, has designed and built a completely new network for the emergency deployment of the NHS Nightingale Hospital at its Birmingham site in response to Covid-19.

There are many other companies within the Cotswolds, not mentioned here, who are also making a huge difference by using their own specialised skills to help the NHS and other key workers.

We salute you all.