During lockdown, most businesses have focused on trying to keep afloat, whilst applauding the efforts of the medical professionals keeping us healthy. But one racing business has used its expertise to support the collective national effort.
The leading racing silks maker in Europe, Allertons, has changed course during the coronavirus crisis to support local hospitals and provide hundreds of sets of scrubs for free as a gift to the NHS. Allertons staff are also familiar faces on the Point-to-Point scene, delivering signage and branding solutions for sponsors like Robert Hitchins Group, Skinner's Pet Foods, Cothill School, Carter Jonas, Dubarry and previously for motor manufacturers Volvo and Subaru at courses like Andoversford, Barbury and Stratford.
Following the suspension of racing in Great Britain on 17th March due to COVID-19, the Oxfordshire-based company contacted NHS Central to see if they could use their expertise to supply products that would benefit medical professionals on the frontline. South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT) were quick to respond to their call.
After several meetings and sample tests from Allertons, SWFT placed an order of 800 garments for its four hospitals – Warwick, Leamington Spa, Stratford, and Shipton-on-Stour.
Staff at Allertons have volunteered to manufacture the scrubs, including working on weekends and bank holidays. There are 14 volunteers in total producing around 100 garments per week and, so far, they have made around 400 sets of scrubs. Valerie Quelch, assistant general manager of hotel services for SWFT, praised the quality of the scrubs Allerton have delivered for her workforce and the constant supply at such an important time during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are extremely grateful for everything Allertons have done. They have produced something for us which is of a high quality and has been truly, truly appreciated by the staff here. The scrubs are really well-made and are a fantastic fit, we’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” Quelch said.
“Following the outbreak of COVID-19, everyone was after scrubs and they were extremely hard to get a hold of, so NHS Trusts were coming up with measures to get more into the system. The supply didn’t completely dry up, but it was much slower than it normally would be with such high demand, so the Allertons garments have proven to be very helpful. Each week we have had a steady supply coming through."
“A large group of final year medical students were seconded to SWFT to assist and ease pressure on our Junior doctors during the coronavirus pandemic. The team that arrived with us has all passed their final year exams and were due to commence their careers as junior doctors in August. We have been able to use the Allertons’ stock to clothe every single one of those doctors.”
The scrubs are worn underneath PPE by medical professionals and are particularly useful amid an outbreak such as COVID-19. They are used as uniform at hospitals and can be washed at +60 degrees to kill any possible remnants of the virus. This means staff do not have to wear normal clothes around the hospital and can reduce their chances of taking coronavirus back to their homes.
After buying more than 1,000m of the required fabric for the scrubs, the volunteers at Allertons got to work to produce them. The manufacturing of scrubs differs from their usual output of making handmade, bespoke racing silks that are individually cut and sewn and so the volunteers have had to adjust their skillset with different fabrics to create the scrubs.
They have been adhering to social distancing guidelines at all times, with machinery moved to ensure they are at least 2m apart. The volunteers also split themselves into two separate teams (and rotas), including people working at home, so there are less people in the workshop.
Adrian Wray, managing director at Allertons, paid tribute to his staff for volunteering their time to contribute to the collaborative and joint effort to help the NHS.
“The staff here at Allertons have been incredible, they’ve pretty much done it off their own back,” Wray said.
“They found the fabric, raised the order for the fabric and got it delivered, and they have all volunteered their furlough time to create the patterns, cut the fabric, iron all of the components, machine them together, pack them and drive them up to Warwick Hospital.
“As a business, it’s lovely to be able to turn our hand to something that is useful and supportive while contributing to the national effort. As volunteers, they feel the same way, but it has also given them a focus to do something positive. They’ve all been marvellous at the way they have managed to organise their family life, getting to work, and finding time to be able to do this, it’s been a total team effort."
“During these tough times, to be able to give something back to the community is huge for us. We are very grateful to find people from within the NHS who wanted our help, and it feels fantastic to be able to give it to them without charge.”
Kelly Griffin, a cutter at Allertons, was delighted to be able to provide something useful to the NHS in the current circumstances.
“We’ve designed all of the patterns for the scrubs, we’ve brought in all of the fabric and put together all of the garments from scratch. It’s not what we’d normally do here at Allertons but it’s nice to be able to help the NHS,” Griffin said.
“Everyone is happy to volunteer for the NHS because what they always do, and are doing at the moment, is amazing. It’s lovely to give back something to them rather than taking all the time.”
Time for a pat on the back to a racing business doing its bit for the national good.
Going for Sunday April 3 - Good (Thursday)
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)