Comhairle nan Eilean Siar took delivery of the first batch of safety visors yesterday (Thursday May 7) for care home staff across the Western Isles, as community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, working in partnership with Lews Castle College UHI, roll out their provision of free PPE (personal protective equipment).
Staff from the college and the wind farm charity have been working together to produce PPE for the islands’ frontline and began delivering the safety visors – made using facilities at the windfarm-sponsored Innovation Centre at the college – last month to NHS doctors and nurses.
The issue of PPE being in short supply has dominated the headlines in terms of coronavirus coverage, with the outbreak of the virus in Portree’s Home Farm care home and subsequent tragic deaths causing grave concern throughout Hebridean communities.
The safety visors come in two parts. The plastic headbands are manufactured at the college using a 3D printer and disposable clear plastic sheets are attached to clips on the headbands to function as faceshields. The aim is for all care staff who need a visor to have their own headband, which can be cleaned by washing in hot soapy water, and enough face sheets, which can be swapped out at regular intervals.
Around 100 visors were delivered to NHS Western Isles and once that commitment was fulfilled, the production team turned their attention to supplying the protective items to the care home sector.
The first delivery of 58 visors and packs of plastic sheets was handed over by Tony Robson, Point and Sandwick Trust community consultant, to Muriel Macleod, Community Care Day Services Manager earlier today. More will follow, until all staff in the care sector have been provided with a visor of their own and an adequate supply of the face sheets.
Once the council-run care homes, from Dun Berisay to St Brendans, have been supplied, the team will turn their attention to the privately-run homes including Bethesda and Blair Buidhe.
Jack Libby, Head of Community Care at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, welcomed the pledge of PPE as “excellent news”, while Muriel Macleod described it as “a great local endeavour”.
Muriel added: “I think it’s a great innovation and a local innovation is always welcome. Local help should always be praised because we’re all in this as a community – and a global community.
“Thanks to UHI and Point and Sandwick Trust very much for their help and their attention in making these for everybody. We are in it together.”
Muriel added there were many items of “single use PPE but it’s good to have something that’s not throwaway” as the headbands could be sterilised and reused.
Tony Robson estimated they would be producing between 400 and 500 headbands in total – and with each headband taking one hour to produce using the college’s 3D printer, it would take a few weeks for that commitment to be fulfilled.
The PPE solution was devised by college staff working in partnership with Tony and Point and Sandwick Trust’s development manager, Calum Macdonald. The headbands are produced on the 3D printer used for plastics at the Innovation Centre – there are another two 3D printers for metal components – and are made using an approved design downloaded from the internet.
The see-through plastic sheets which clip on to the headbands are easy to source, being an everyday office item, but the headband components had been much more difficult to obtain.
The visors are designed to help protect health and social care staff from contracting the virus from people who are positive for Covid-19, including those who may be asymptomatic and undiagnosed. The outbreak of the virus among residents and staff at Home Farm care home in Skye has highlighted the importance of taking such precautions, despite the relatively low numbers of cases confirmed so far in the Western Isles.
Calum Macdonald, development manager for Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “We are delighted to be able to support the council in any way we can and especially the fantastic care home staff we have in the islands, both in the council and in the non-council operated homes.”
Calum said the Trust had worked with college staff to get the 3D printer making visors and head clips but it had been “not at all a straightforward thing to organise because they have to be made to the right spec and with the right materials”. He paid tribute to the “technical skill of the fantastic staff at the college, led by Ian F Macdonald”.
Roddy Ferguson, head of technology at Lews Castle College UHI, said: “Engineering staff at the college were very keen to do their bit to support the local health and social care sectors during the current Covid-19 crisis by utilising the 3D-prototyping equipment from the college’s Innovation Centre to produce safety visors suitable for those working in the frontline against the spread of coronavirus.”
All materials for the production of the headbands are being funded by Point and Sandwick Trust, which runs the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm near Stornoway for the benefit of the community, and which funded the expansion of the Innovation Centre at the Lews Castle College UHI campus, and the purchase of its 3D printer for plastics back in 2018 – an investment which subsequently levered in more funding from the Outer Hebrides LEADER project.
The production and distribution of PPE follows the creation of Point and Sandwick Trust’s pandemic community fund, a donation of £40,000 to NHS Western Isles from that fund and donations of £5,000 to community councils in Point, Sandwick and Stornoway to act as ‘hardship funds’ to help alleviate suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.
Notes to Editors:
Point and Sandwick Trust is a multi-award-winning charitable organisation in the Outer Hebrides which uses the income of community-generated wind power to support projects and organisations developing social, cultural, educational and environmental wellbeing.
The charity reinvests 100 per cent of the profits from its Beinn Ghrideag wind farm – the largest UK community wind farm in terms of output (9MW) – in its local community and has been recognised as leading the way in community renewable energy and social enterprise.
It has won a number of awards – Best Community Project at the Scottish Green Energy Awards 2015; UK Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year 2018; Scottish Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year 2018; and Winner of the Celebrating Communities award at the Scottish Charity Awards 2018 – and been shortlisted for more.
Funding projects of all sizes, the Trust provides significant support within the crofting communities of Point and Sandwick on the Isle of Lewis and the wider Western Isles.
Since Beinn Ghrideag began generating power in 2015, Point and Sandwick Trust has donated more than £1million to local good causes and set up the emergency Pandemic Community Fund in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Pictures of Point and Sandwick Trust’s Tony Robson handing over the first batch of visors to Muriel Macleod, Community Care Day Services Manager, at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Pictures by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos (please credit if using).