UK hospital tackles PPE shortage by making 5,000 visors a day

Hospital in Wolverhampton believed to be first in NHS to resort to in-house production

With hospitals across the country struggling to get enough visors for their frontline staff, one has come up with a clever solution – make your own.

New Cross hospital in Wolverhampton has turned its library into a mini-factory and has called in its specialists who usually help with facial reconstruction for patients after surgery.

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust, which runs New Cross and two other hospitals in the Black Country, is believed to be the first to tackle the NHS-wide shortage of visors by resorting to in-house production.

“The large numbers of patients with Covid-19 we have been dealing with during the pandemic meant we had unprecedented demand for visors and other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE),” said Prof Steve Field, the chair of the trust’s board.

“We couldn’t source visors in the volumes and to the specification we needed, so we decided to start making them in-house. Our clinical staff say they’re the best visors they’ve ever used.”

A team of staff from the three sites have made more than 100,000 visors since starting production on 10 April. Visors are an essential part of the PPE which staff should wear when at the highest risk of contracting coronavirus from droplets expelled by infected patients, for example when they are intubating them to go on a ventilator.

The factory is churning out about 5,000 every day. About 3,000 go to staff at New Cross, which has 850 beds, and the other 2,000 are shared between the trust’s much smaller Cannock Chase and West Park hospitals, community health services and GP practices it runs, and local care homes.

Dave Ellis designed the visor. His usual job, the laboratory manager in New Cross’s maxillofacial department, involves the manufacture of prosthetic ears, eyes and noses for patients who have had those body parts removed, usually as a result of cancer surgery.

But the 34-strong team producing the visors also includes a nurse, healthcare assistant, a porter, medical students and a cardiac scientist. Some of them got involved after being removed from frontline duties because health problems put them at greater risk from Covid-19. Mel Riley, who is managing the team, normally tests and treats patients with eye problems such as squints or double vision but this is temporarily suspended as a result of the pandemic.

“The real bonus of the whole process is that we’ve taken a team from a really diverse set of backgrounds and put them together and come up with a really useful product that is fit for purpose. The visors have helped frontline staff feel more secure in their work,” said Ellis.

Field added: “It’s marvellous to see the ingenuity inherent in prosthetics being used to create vital PPE. Staff are really enjoying the work and they know that it could help save the lives of their colleagues on the frontline.”

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The fact that staff at this trust are now producing visors as part of its PPE kit for staff is one of a host of examples from the NHS trusts we represent rising to the vast array of challenges that this pandemic has thrown at them.

“Rather than be completely reliant on external supplies of visors the trust has taken the initiative, innovated and found solutions within its own organisation.”


Denis Campbell Health policy editor

The GuardianTramp

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