Joining an army of volunteers across the country, James Anderson has been a local leader in the effort to help support healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Responding to the shortage of essential personal protection equipment required by health workers, Mr Anderson set up a small 3D printing workshop to produce face shields for local hospitals and surgeries. He initially started off with two 3D printers, and through donations raised in a GoFundMe campaign, was able to acquire seven more printers as well as biodegradable plastic filament. In-kind support included the loan of a high-spec printer and electric guillotine from Oundle School.
Mr Anderson explained how he started the project. “I have been living in the East Midlands for 2.5 years now and I have had the benefit of having access to the world’s greatest healthcare system, the NHS. So when the Covid-19 crisis broke out and I learned my local hospital was out of personal protective equipment, I got in contact with their head of Health & Safety and offered to help.”
His first GoFundMe appeal launched on 28 March quickly exceeded his target and allowed him to immediately buy extra equipment and supplies. He initially started producing 30 masks a day, and with the extra printers was able to scale up to 60-70 reusable shields a day from his own home.
He sent the first 25 face shields to Peterborough Hospital and Oundle Surgery on 30th March, and by the end of April had delivered 1800 shields.
Oundle residents were quick to help Mr Anderson with small tasks. People loaned him extra worktables and helped with deliveries, and 20 volunteers cut and tied 1,500 elastic bands for him.
Mr Anderson thanked them on his Facebook post: “You have made assembling the face shields much easier and are directly helping the NHS! Thank you so much.”
Mr Anderson kept the printers running round the clock and dealt with daily mechanical glitches and repairs, while also continuing to work at his day job, which allowed him to work half days to focus on the shields. His wife, Lauren was also at home to provide essential help.
“During the day she spends hours sanding, cleaning, and assembling the previous night’s prints. I could not do this without her!”
At the end of April, he was asked to continue his supply of face shields to Peterborough Hospital because although they were receiving delivery of stock from central government, “they asked me to keep printing as their staff prefer mine to the official ones”.
His second appeal to raise funds for raw materials again surpassed his target. “We hit the revised goal in less than 48 hours, and as I was writing an update to that effect, we received a £500 donation from Peterborough and Whittlesey Roundtable organisation! The generosity of this community never fails to astound me!”
In May, new government assessments for small-scale production of PPE were introduced, so Mr Anderson will shut down his operation at the end of May. Remaining funds will be donated to the NHS Trust, and printers donated to schools.
By 21 May he had donated more than 3000 shields to local health workers.