South West businesses step up to supply urgently required PPE

The call for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect the NHS and its staff has seen many businesses across the South West adapt to help meet their community’s needs.

Some businesses have kindly donated protective equipment and others have adjusted how their organisation works to find a way to manufacture and supply essential PPE for frontline workers.

Brixham Gin, South Devon College, Exmoor Gin, and TrackHat are just some of businesses we work with who have helped make a difference.


In Torbay, Brixham Gin Distillery is supplying frontline staff and keyworkers with alcohol-based hand sanitiser. The distillery has supplied local doctors’ practices and children’s services. 250 litres have been made and supplied to Britannia Royal Naval College, HMS Raleigh, Royal Mail, local care homes and food producers.

Katrina Wade from Brixham Gin Distillery said: “We have raw materials arriving next week and have orders for 750 litres from Royal Mail, Torbay Council and HMS Raleigh. We’re now able to accept orders from local businesses on a first come first served basis. In current times it has been refreshing to be able to divert our business in this way. We’re able to play a part in helping to keep local people working in essential services. We’re also donating 50p a litre of our sales to Yes Brixham Food Bank.”

South Devon College is working with Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, to urgently produce protective medical equipment to protect NHS staff in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

The team, based at the college’s Hi Tech & Digital Centre in Paignton, are using state-of-the-art fused filament fabrication 3D printers to produce headbands.

Following safety testing of the first prototype, the team are now working on producing around 100 face shields, which will be delivered to the team at Torbay Hospital.

They’ve also prepared 112 goggles, 187 safety glasses, three visors, four respirators, nine boxes of disposable face masks, and 19 boxes of disposable gloves to be donated and collected by NHS staff.

Laurence Frewin, Principal and CEO at South Devon College said: “We’re proud that our dedicated staff have been innovative and able to step up so quickly to support the call for help from our wonderful NHS at this time of national emergency.”

Exmoor Gin, who work from the Barle Enterprise Centre, part of Somerset Enterprise Centres, had a lot of people asking about hand sanitiser on their social media channels.

Head Distiller John Smith worked hard to create an 80% alcohol sanitiser. John Said: “We want our customers to feel safe. As we have the tools to create the hand sanitiser that our customers need, we feel that this is a great way for us to adapt and to help.

“We are pleased to say that we will be supplying our hand sanitiser in bulk to the NHS directly. With tough times ahead, we have been looking for ways that we can adapt our local distillery into a beacon of hope. Being able to provide our healthcare workers with some extra protection has made us very happy indeed!”

TrackHat is a well-established Somerset Enterprise Centre tenant, based in Frome. The business produces Gaming headsets with tracking cameras. As part of their standard production process they need to use 3D printers, and operate in a very clean environment.

At the beginning of the current pandemic, when it became evident that there was a national shortage of Personal Protective Equipment, (PPE), for key Health workers, TrackHat decided to put his resources to good use.

As part of a larger South West network of producers, they have been manufacturing visors on their 3D printing equipment. These protective visors take around 2 hours to print just one, so the three printers and TrackHat owner James Allen are working flat out.

James approached TDA to ask if there was available space for storage of parts prior to assembly, and more space was offered in Frome Enterprise Centre units.

As well as James, there are eight willing volunteers working at TrackHat to complete these tasks – printing, assembling and packing for onward distribution.

James Allen said: “The first 2,000 went to a distribution centre in Sheffield for assembly and use during the Easter weekend. So far the South West network has produced over 3,000 visors for use, with a further 10,000 to be produced by the second week of May.

“The visors are going to NHS Trusts, Doctor’s Surgeries, Dental Surgeries, Care Providers and all frontline staff. There have been 35-40 thousand of these visors produced since the first call for equipment went out. The selflessness of the business owners producing this equipment has gone a long way to protecting our front line health workers.

In difficult times, it is good to see so many businesses and people contributing to making life a little safer, and more bearable for others, TrackHat, and James Allen are a shining example of this.

Any business with PPE to donate to NHS services can contact the Clinical Commissioning Groups at: in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay; and in Somerset.

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