A call to arms for West Midlands businesses to step up and produce or donate protective clothing for those on the coronavirus frontline has been met with an overwhelming response.
More than 367 companies have so far responded to the call for medical grade Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), which only went out from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) last week.
So far, 13 firms, including plastics and aerospace companies who have never made PPE gear before, have now been approved as having the potential to start manufacturing the potentially life-saving kit.
A further 57 existing suppliers of PPE have also come forward and been put in contact with the region’s local councils, many of which have been struggling to secure enough equipment for frontline staff such as care home workers and refuse collectors.
As well as public sector workers, other organisations, such as undertakers, continue to report shortages across the West Midlands which is the biggest regional hotspot for coronavirus outside London.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “We only issued our call to arms last week, yet the response from businesses both small and large has been incredible.
“It is another example of how our region is pulling together in this crisis and the willingness of individuals and businesses to step up and join the fight against coronavirus.
“The fact that through this initiative more than a dozen companies have already been identified as having the potential to turn their hand to the manufacturing of PPE is fantastic and once again shows the calibre and innovation of West Midlands industry.
“I would also like to thank all those smaller businesses like nail salons and building companies who have come forward with offers to donate their surplus PPE.”
The WMCA joined forces with local councils and business groups, including Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, to issue the rallying call for companies who can help tackle the shortage of items such as medical grade masks, gloves, goggles, aprons or other PPE.
Staff at the WMCA and the Chamber have been working hard over recent days to assess the hundreds of offers and carry out validation checks.
Referred companies are now going through formal pre-procurement checks or receiving support from expert partner organisations.
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “There has been a tremendous response to the call to arms for PPE.
“We have already received a number of positive messages from businesses across the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce network who are willing and able to help in a variety of ways.
“There are a lot of firms and individuals across the region, who are working hard to make a real difference and their efforts will ultimately help save lives.
“Anyone who is yet to respond but feel they can make a positive contribution, please get in touch.”
In launching the initiative last week, the WMCA and the Chamber stressed that the campaign was not about diverting existing supplies but about unearthing extra capacity in the region to meet shortages amongst non-NHS frontline workers and in particular care home workers.
Cllr Paulette Hamilton, Birmingham City Council cabinet member for health and social care, added: “Firstly I must thank care staff and wider front-line staff who have been fantastic during these unprecedented and difficult times.
“I’m really grateful to all these businesses that have stepped forward to help and to everyone making donations of PPE.
“However, there remains a national shortage of PPE and it’s vital that we have a sustainable supply, so we will continue to lobby government to ensure that workers on the frontline have what they need to protect themselves and our most vulnerable citizens.”
Companies can register their interest by emailing email@example.com with their company details.
Vital supplies can then, as required, be procured and allocated by local authorities and private community-based organisations who support and care for vulnerable and unwell people across the West Midlands.
Items needed include: Type IIR/FFP2/FFP3 Facemasks, disposable sleeveless aprons, disposable aprons with sleeves, disposable Nitrile gloves, goggles and hand sanitiser.