A consortium of British textile firms is aiming to make millions of protective gowns to help the NHS tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
Kate Hills said manufacturers had come together to form the British Textile Consortium in order to make vital personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.
Ms Hills, founder of Make it British, said that gowns produced by a number of consortium members were currently being tested before they can be supplied to the NHS.
She told the PA news agency that consortium members will potentially be able to produce millions of gowns a month to provide protective equipment to the health service.
Ms Hills added: “Gowns and masks are the main things, gowns in particular are critical.
“Through the consortium a number of manufacturers are having their gowns tested with a view to then supply them to the NHS.
“They will be able to provide gowns in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, per month.
“But they are disposable products so it is not everything that is needed but a good proportion of what is needed.
“The roll out will be in a few weeks.”
Ms Hills said that because there was not a single large company in the UK that could make PPE, it was important to set up a new supply chain to produce the essential products.
She continued: “It is quite difficult for a Government that has been procuring ready-made stock from China to understand how the UK textile industry operates.
“It’s a lot of different moving parts of the supply chain, the fabric company, the company that does the sewing. We are basically putting the supply chain back together for them [the Government].”
Her comments come after reports emerged of manufacturers offering to make PPE for health workers not receiving responses from the Government.
Labour MP Rachel Reeves said on Twitter that she had been contacted by “lots” of companies claiming they had heard “nothing back” from the Government regarding PPE production.
Since I sent this letter to Michael Gove, I've had lots of manufacturers tell me that they have contacted the Govt to offer to make PPE but have heard nothing back. If that is your story too, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org https://t.co/emhQhIt8mG
— Rachel Reeves (@RachelReevesMP) April 20, 2020
Ms Reeves’ comments come amid growing frustration over a shortage of PPE for NHS workers during the coronavirus pandemic, days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged companies to help boost stocks.
Ms Reeves tweeted a copy of a letter she sent to Cabinet minister Michael Gove on Saturday expressing concern about PPE shortages, and asking how many UK firms had been taken up on their offers to manufacture it.
She said in her letter there was a “huge desire” within Britain’s textiles industry to help.
High-end fashion retailers in the UK, including Burberry, Barbour and David Nieper, have reopened factories and re-enlisted staff who had been furloughed to help boost supplies.
Coathanger firm Mainetti has said it is to begin making protective face shields at its plant in Jedburgh, in the Scottish Borders.
Production will begin at 8,000 face shields a day, with 1,000 being donated to the plant’s local hospital – Borders General Hospital in Melrose – and then be scaled up based on demand, it added.
All face shields will be produced to the specification required by the NHS and the firm said orders were now being taken for delivery at the beginning of May.
A campaign has also been launched calling for businesses, sole traders and the self-employed who may have vital supplies of PPE procured before the Covid-19 outbreak to donate it to help healthcare workers.
Masks for Heroes, which launched at the beginning of April, is appealing to industries to donate surplus PPE to people who need it the most.
Its co-founders Karl Melkerts and James Hogg said: “We are appealing to any businesses who would normally use PPE to check if they have any spare items they’d be willing to donate if required.
“No matter how small a supply you have, it could make an important difference to a key worker, charity or healthcare facility local to you.”