Suffolk tech hub co-ordinates production of protective visors for local NHS workers

BT’s Adastral Park, a hub for technology firms in Suffolk, is coordinating an effort to create thousands of protective visors for frontline health and social care workers in the East of England.

The campus, near Ipswich, is working with local schools, universities and 3D printing firms to supply organisations with protective equipment. BT plans to produce around 3,000 visors a week for organisations like the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

Lisa Perkins, BT Adastral Park research and realisation director, said they developed a prototype of the visor after hearing about the difficulties the NHS was facing in securing enough PPE.

It started off as a small request enquiring if we had any 3D printers, which then grew to us taking on the whole co-ordination of producing these visors across the region. It’s not just ESNEFT this is limited to either, we’re also supplying local GPs and care homes who have approached us.

Lisa Perkins, BT Adastral Park research and realisation director

Ms Perkins said a prototype of the visor was shown to officials at Ipswich Hospital, who then asked if production could be ramped up immediately.

We’ve set up a production line at Adastral Park and delivered our first visors to Ipswich Hospital on April 9. They told us they would be put to use in the intensive care unit immediately and it’s incredible to think it’s already making a difference.

Lisa Perkins, BT Adastral Park research and realisation director
The 3D printed visors Credit: BT

The project includes local partners such as Stealth Mounts, Farlingaye High School and University of Suffolk, Connectix Cabling Systems, Ipswich Makerspace, Kemtron and Stour Valley School.

Some individuals are also contributing by using their personal 3D printers and supplies.

Ipswich Hospital is co-ordinating the distribution of the visors throughout Trust sites including Aldeburgh, Clacton, Halstead, Harwich and Felixstowe community hospitals and Bluebird Lodge, near Ipswich.

We’ve been blown away by the amazing response we’ve had. We’ve got an army of people 3D printing the frames, we’ve had large donations of acetate and elastic and people have offered to collect and deliver materials.

Lisa Perkins, BT Adastral Park research and realisation director

Dr Angela Tillett, Chief Medical Officer at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) said she is also grateful of locals offering support.

This very large and regular supply of full-face visors is making a real difference and allowing our teams to continue the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19) at ESNEFT safely.

Dr Angela Tillett, Chief Medical Officer at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Ms Perkins said BT had also received requests from other health and social care providers and also Suffolk Police to supply them with the visors.

In addition to making the protective visors, BT’s Adastral Park also has an Emergency Response Team. The team receive specialist training and have a fully equipped ambulance. Since the weekend (April 18-19), they have been supporting the East of England Ambulance Service on emergency call outs.

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