Sixteen days after launching the crowd funding campaign for NHS frontline workers, 100,000 full-face shields have been distributed to hospitals across the UK.
With 100,000 more visors on the way from China, the team of four behind the "masks4nhsheroes" fundraiser, including Dr Mona Barzin, Dr Salaj Masand, Mr Ravi Visagan and Mr Nav Kumar, are now seeing the results of their efforts.
Mr Kumar, who is Director of P1F Ltd, a Design, Development and Investment company, said he was delighted with being able to start distributing PPE equipment after a challenging few weeks.
“In the last 10 days or so we’ve placed our orders for 200,000 visors, 100,000 have already been delivered to 18 hospitals,” he said. “We’ve also placed orders for 70,000 surgical gowns.
“There are three key stages in getting the gear from the suppliers to the doctors and staff. First it’s finding the right supplier, second is getting it flown or freighted over the UK and third is distributing it as soon as possible to the hospitals. Each stage involves a tremendous amount of work.
“Getting the supplies is the hardest thing, there’s a huge demand on natural resources and the raw material that goes into making the masks and gowns. The hardest thing in those three stages is finding a supplier you can trust and who is going to deliver on time, because every day we lose here unfortunately some people are dying.”
The PPE equipment is being sourced from China, but it must pass stringent safety checks before it can be delivered to the frontline workers.
“We’ve got PPE approved by NHS Central,” Mr Kumar added. “The quality of the PPE is the most important factor, if the equipment doesn’t pass the safety standards it can actually be detrimental to the NHS staff.
“What was satisfying was that we were delivering products that appeared superior to what they were already using. That’s probably the best bit.”
Over the weekend, the first approved deliveries went out to 18 NHS hospitals, including Northwick Park, which was one of the first hospitals to treat coronavirus patients in the UK.
Deliveries were also made to Gloucestershire, Kent and London hospitals.
“I went around with DHL delivering the PPE,” he said. “DHL, our UK distribution partner, have been absolutely amazing in their passion and motivation to do things to the best quality.
“Mike, who drove the trucks delivering the items over the weekend actually has a different role at the company, but he wanted to do it because he really cared about the campaign. It shows the level of teamwork that’s gone into it.
"Zencargo too, they've been instrumental. We couldn't have done this without them. They were quick to get involved with organising the freight for the PPE and have been a huge support. Everyone just wants to do their bit."
What began as an effort to help their friends, who are doctors, snowballed into a national fundraising campaign, and the total raised currently stands at £1.8m.
“Even raising £200,000 at the beginning was a ridiculous number,” Mr Kumar said. “In the beginning the goal wasn’t to buy the PPE ourselves. It was only when we figured out there were inefficiencies in the current system that we felt there was a gap to fill. The volume of goodwill that donors have given to the campaign has been overwhelming.
“A donation of forty or fifty pounds can pay for about 20 visors, which is critical or 20 respiratory face masks. These people are making a direct impact. It’s gone much higher than we thought but we’ve got the right structures in place to make sure it happens.”
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