GM Mayor praises Manchester Metropolitan University’s Fashion Institute innovation and support for frontline NHS workers

GM Mayor praises Manchester Metropolitan University’s Fashion Institute innovation and support for frontline NHS workers
17 April 2020

British clothing manufacturers are being asked to come forward to produce medical scrubs and gowns in bulk, based on a technical template developed at speed by Manchester Metropolitan University garment technicians to help in the frontline NHS fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Northern Care Alliance (NCA) NHS Group (which runs four hospitals at Salford Royal, The Royal Oldham Hospital, Fairfield General Hospital in Bury and Rochdale Infirmary) approached Barbara Shepherd and Paul Williams at the Manchester Fashion Institute’s Business Development team, while also working with the University’s PrintCity facility, for assistance in developing PPE. Other NHS trusts and academic institutions have since been in touch with Manchester Fashion Institute, who are offering open access to the technical work they have produced.

The Garment Technical Services team within the University’s Manchester Fashion Institute have put together a simple production pack, while its Business Development team have been working hard to source raw materials for the mass production of protective clothing for hospital workers.

With support from the Growth Company, they are now calling for suitable UK-based manufacturers to step forward to carry this out, making their technical production pack freely available for any that can use it.

It is the latest example of the University playing its part in the global battle against the outbreak of the Coronavirus through its technical and scientific expertise.

Within days of being approached by a regional NHS trust experiencing shortages of some items of personal protective equipment (PPE), Fashion Institute technicians produced digital graded patterns and a technical production pack for a scrub pant and top, and a hospital gown.

The team deconstructed samples of existing garments, simplifying the design to allow the garments to be produced at scale quickly.  The number of garment components was reduced, and the team have used colour-contrast stitching for different sizes, enabling medical staff to easily find appropriate clothing on shift.

Professor Liz Barnes, Head of Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “I am immensely proud that we are able to come together to utilise the talent and expertise of our academic and technical staff at Manchester Fashion Institute, working with the fashion industry in Manchester, to find solutions to support the wonderful work of the NHS.”

Dr Pete Turkington, Chief Officer and Medical Director at Salford Royal, part of the NCA Group, said: “The supply and availability of equipment and clothing to support our frontline staff is so important as we continue to use and work with national and local suppliers.  We are in unprecedented times. The way we respond to this pandemic will rely largely on how all sectors and all areas of healthcare and business work together to develop innovative ways of working.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the University’s Manchester Fashion Institute and taking advantage of their skills and expertise to help the NHS. The speed in which the technical specification and design template has been built has been fantastic. Hopefully manufacturers can progress this to produce the garments for use across our hospitals and other NHS Trusts.”    

The Growth Company has coordinated several manufacturers to work on the sample garments as part of a wider effort to source PPE for public-sector front-line services. The Greater Manchester PPE taskforce includes MIDAS (Greater Manchester’s inward investment agency), GC Business Growth Hub, and GMCA (including Police, Fire and Transport for Greater Manchester). Together with Manchester Metropolitan, this partnership is now inviting direct enquiries from manufacturers across the UK to be directed to its dedicated team of manufacturing experts based at GC Business Growth Hub.

Geoff Crossley, Senior Manufacturing Advisor at GC Business Growth Hub, said: “The team at Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University has pulled out all the stops to develop this open source garment design that is approved by the NHS and can now play a key role in addressing shortages across the supply chain.  Our message to manufacturers is simple – if you think you can now help with the production of these garments, please contact our team as soon as possible.”  

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This is a great move from the team at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Fashion Institute to support our frontline NHS workers and find innovative solutions to the challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak. We know just how much knowledge and expertise we have here in Greater Manchester, and people across our city-region, from scientists and technicians to gin makers, have all been stepping forward to do their bit. The most important thing now is that we keep those supply chains moving and keep getting the right equipment out to everyone who needs it, so we can help hospital workers to stay safe and save lives.”

To speak to GC Business Growth Hub about supporting this important initiative, please contact Geoff Crossley on 07734 776 558 or email or Barbara Shepherd on