Re-usable PPE that lasts ‘entire pandemic’ could solve NHS shortages

Re-usable PPE designed to ‘last the whole coronavirus pandemic’ could solve NHS shortages when it is ready next week

  • Re-usable protective gear has the potential to replace throwaway items 
  • ‘Parachute gown’ remains sterile and waterproof after 100 73C washes
  • First 1,000 gowns will be delivered to Derby hospital as soon as next week 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Hospitals are pioneering re-usable protective kit which is designed to ‘last the whole coronavirus epidemic’.

The new type of personal protective equipment could provide a long-term solution to critical shortages.

Every day in hospitals around the country, medical staff put about 150,000 lifesaving surgical gowns or coveralls into clinical waste bins after they have been used.

Then, along with hundreds of thousands of single-use surgical masks, aprons and gloves, they are sent to landfill or for incineration.

Now several hospitals are seeking a more sustainable alternative to this ‘hand to mouth’ dependence on single-use PPE.

Pictured: Re-usable protective hoods have been developed at Southampton University to help prevent NHS shortages

Pictured: Re-usable protective hoods have been developed at Southampton University to help prevent NHS shortages

The re-usable PPE, designed by British scientists and manufacturers, has the potential to replace throwaway items. 

In Derbyshire, women’s fashion firm David Nieper has created a re-usable surgical gown which can be laundered by hospitals.

Tests show the ‘parachute gown’ remains sterile and waterproof even after 100 washes at 73C (163F).

The gowns comply with the highest European safety standards. The first 1,000 will be delivered to a local hospital in Derby next week, with thousands more to be sent out to other hospitals in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, British scientists have also come up with a sustainable alternative to the millions of surgical masks and visors currently being disposed of by NHS hospitals each week.

Christopher Nieper, chief executive of David Nieper, said: ‘At the moment we have enough fabric to make 12,500 gowns. 

‘If these are washed 100 times they could potentially save the NHS buying 1.25million disposable gowns. Shifting to re-usable PPE is a no-brainer.

‘The environmental impact alone of disposing of more than half a million gowns each week is staggering. Disposable PPE fabric is very thin, like a glorified plastic bag. 

David Nieper fashion firm in Derbyshire has designed a unique, re-useable 'parachute style' surgical gown for frontline NHS staff (pictured)

David Nieper fashion firm in Derbyshire has designed a unique, re-useable ‘parachute style’ surgical gown for frontline NHS staff (pictured) 

‘But the medical fabric we use is very tightly woven, meaning it stays water-repellent and you can keep using it safely for years. If we give our frontline doctors and nurses good-quality PPE, they will never run out and will feel safe.’ David Nieper has five factories in Derbyshire employing around 300 staff.

After re-jigging its production line, the family firm is now being been inundated with orders for its re-usable gowns. It has also manufactured 7,000 sets of scrubs.

Astonishingly, the firm’s offers of help were repeatedly ignored by central government and it has only been able to sell the gowns by dealing directly with hospital trusts.

At Southampton University a team has designed a ‘respirator hood’, consisting of a fabric hood and plastic visor, along with a belt-mounted fan which draws air through a filter that removes 99.95 per cent of particulates. The clean air is then pumped inside the hood through a hose.

Hundreds of staff were kitted out in the hoods this week at Southampton General Hospital, which has placed an order for 5,000.

The hoods, made by Indo Lighting, can be worn for up to nine hours and are completely .

Paul Elkington, a professor of respiratory medicine in Southampton who led the project, said: ‘Each of these hoods will last the whole epidemic, so it resolves the whole issue of PPE supply and shortages.

‘They just need to be wip’ed down with a clinical bleach wipe after each use.’ 

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