Coronavirus: Face shields unable to be distributed to NHS staff

People across Wales have been responding to the continued shortages of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) by 3D printing face shields, only to find they can’t give them to NHS staff because they haven’t been approved for use.

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At the weekend we reported on one of the people affected, web designer Richard Blackwell, who has built up a large team of volunteers to help assemble and distribute medical visors.

So far Richard’s GoFundMe page has raised £8,222 and over one thousand five hundred face shields have been sent out to GPs, paramedics, hospital workers, and care home staff across South Wales free of charge.

The group have been told the visors can not be used by NHS staff until they’ve received a CE mark, the European safety standard.

Scott Dewey, a former assistant producer for BBC Wales, works as part of Pentyrch and Surrounding Area PPE Visor Production, the logistics side of the group.

He said “We have made and delivered over 1,500 and we have got more than 1,200 waiting to go out. They will just be sat in boxes until this is all resolved.

“We’ve also had to inform people, who we have already given them to, not to use them. But most of these people, as you can imagine, would rather have what we’ve given them than nothing at all.”

He added there is currently a large backlog of orders that can’t be fulfilled.

He said “These visors were meant to be used as a stop gap. We were seeing all the stories about the lack of PPE and we thought we could help.

“Our target was to make 500 a day and they were all being given away absolutely free. This bureaucracy and red tape should not be costing people’s lives.”

Since starting the project Scott said the team has been inundated with kind words of thanks and small gifts such as free ice cream.

They are now liaising with their local AMs and MPs to try and get the visors out to those who need them.

The boxes of unused visors are currently being stored in a restaurant in Rhiwbina, Cardiff.

David Sims, co-founder of 3DCrowdUK, which has six thousand volunteers producing and distributing face shields, tweeted “Being a motorcyclist I would not trust a PPE helmet without a CE mark, but also I wouldn’t go ride a motorbike without one.

“Our front-line staff do not have this luxury. They are going out there without protection.”

Jason Aspinall, from Vale Visors, said his team of five have made two hundred and eighty visors so far and have orders for another five hundred from University Hospital Llandough, University Hospital of Wales, the Royal Gwent, and several GPs’ surgeries, undertakers, and pharmacies.

He said “Many folk have been using thin acetate, like the stuff used on overhead projectors, thin as paper, completely unsuitable for the face visor.

“The spec calls for 400um or more, which is the spec Vale Visors have been working to, using the approved head band design.

“So while the public making them think they’re helping they really do need to understand the practicalities of using a visor with an inferior visor part not being fit for purpose.

“The public should be able to help where they can so long as they make the right thing.”

The Welsh Government said all PPE needs to meet certain safety standards before it can be provided to frontline health and social care workers.

A spokesman said “We have been overwhelmed by the generous offers of Welsh businesses to help produce PPE. We are working with businesses to manufacture extra supplies of PPE. If other companies would like to help they should contact the Wales Life Sciences Hub.”

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