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Old Edwardian talks Covid-19 and PPE

a picture of all the face shields

James Cleasby (OE) talking about the Covid-19 crisis and his recent PPE project in the D&T Department:

Good morning James, how is lockdown faring for you so far? 

Morning Yash. Lockdown has had its ups and downs for me. I’ve consistently lived away from home since I left KES in 2018, so it has been nice to spend some time back in Birmingham with my family. At the same time, it’s been tough having to suspend all my career plans and sit around with not a lot to do.

Yes, I totally agree. Life has almost come to a standstill. While we are on the topic, I understand you are training to become a pilot. Do you feel that the travel industry will make a comeback in the near future, or do you see this low as persisting in the foreseeable future?

Aviation in particular has been one of the hardest hit industries by coronavirus. It is a volatile sector at the best of times and has encountered numerous demand shocks in the past, most notably following 9/11. It has always rebounded back to previous levels, if not to an even stronger position, but coronavirus is by far the most severe of these events to have happened, so we are in unknown territory with regards to how long the recovery might take. Demand forecasts by the major airlines suggest it may not be until 2023 that we see 2019 levels of travel return. It will certainly be a tough few years!

Difficult times for all, it must be said. Given that you have been relatively free, I suppose, during this period, what have you been getting up to in your spare time, perhaps even something that might fit KES’s ideal of CAS?

I was a keen musician while at KES, but it’s fair to say my instruments were neglected whilst I was away training. It’s been good to spend some time bringing my playing back up to scratch. I also got involved with a project back at the D&T workshops at KES, helping them manufacture the PPE face shields.

Ah yes, I am aware of this. In fact, there was a previous article in the newsletter about this project. Perhaps you could provide us with an insight as to how production has progressed over the course of the past couple of months?

We had one main production run over about two weeks in late April. By the end, when we had refined the process, we were producing around 500 visors per three-hour session. Initially, the focus had been on delivering to local GP practices. Through a combination of KES and KEHS contacts, Mr Howard’s wife, who is a GP, and the parents of myself and Vaishali Senthil (KEHS OE), who all work in the NHS, we found plenty of extremely grateful medical practitioners who placed orders.

How did you choose and find where was most appropriate to deliver your stock to cope with the demands?

It was in care homes and hospices that we found the strongest demand. My sister Amelia and I focused on locating homes in the north of the city, while the rest of the group, including Vaishali and the involved KES staff, looked after the south. We were shocked to discover first-hand how cripplingly under-resourced these organisations were, and I was particularly struck by a conversation I had with a care home manager in the Sutton area; she had 220 staff and had only been provided by the authorities with 30 face visors. She informed me that at this point they were luckily the only care home in North Birmingham with no Covid-19 cases.

With seemingly never-ending requests from more and more homes, we continued producing visors expecting to go until we exhausted our resources. In the end, after a few weeks, the demand seemed to dry up and, as far as I’m aware, we still had plenty more of the materials that Mr Balkham had sourced remaining! I can only hope this is a positive sign that all of the facilities that were so desperately in need have finally received an adequate supply of PPE. Looking at our spreadsheet, it appears that in total we delivered over 2,200 visors to at least 55 establishments in the West Midlands.

Wow, that’s really admirable and impressive; I am sure the NHS are hugely grateful for you and your team’s hard work. With my parents both working in the NHS, I am constantly being made aware of the struggles the NHS has had with trying to resource the needed PPE. I am sure your help and commitment in this time of struggle has undoubtedly saved numerous lives. Thank you.

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