Army of needle-workers make essential scrubs

A former seamstress has mobilised an army of needle-workers to make essential scrubs for a hospice’s frontline nurses.

Victoria Emmerson has raised enough money to secure hundreds of metres of fabric and has been using it to make scores of scrubs for St Teresa’s Hospice’s in-patient unit.

Trained as a teacher and currently a learning support assistant with the North-East Autism Society, Victoria, of Butterknowle, is putting the lockdown period to good effect with the first batch of 40 destined for the Darlington Hospice.

Around 80 volunteers across the North-East are cutting out and sewing the material into scrubs for Victoria and also special wash bags used in the decontamination of the equipment.

St Teresa’s Hospice’s Head of Care Alison Marshall said: “The scrubs will be worn as an alternative to the present uniform. Their designs are much more comfortable and cooler given staff are having to wear PPE, when providing all patient care, including masks, gloves and aprons, which has to be changed several times a day.

“After wearing the scrubs on each shift they are put in the wash bags to be laundered at a high temperature, so staff don’t have to touch them again until they are clean.”

The hope is that Victoria can also provide clinical gowns and scrubs for nursing staff who work in the community.

Victoria is part of the national Scrub Hub volunteer group helping supply kit for health staff. She has raised £2,000 so far and is seeking more donations through https://www.gofundme.com/f/scrubhub. Any surplus money will also be donated to the Hospice where her mother-in-law Marie Emmerson is a nurse on the in-patient unit.

“Because of Covid-19 I am on leave at the moment to look after my family and I just wanted to so do something to help,” she said. “My mother-in-law works at the Hospice and I’ve taken part in a number of fundraisers for St Teresa’s.

“I did a degree in costume and textile design and before I trained as a teacher used to have a sewing room in Barnard Castle. Now I have a lady in Eggleston working flat out cutting out the patterns and around 80 volunteers sewing across the region.”

St Teresa’s Hospice Chief Executive Jane Bradshaw said: “This is an absolutely fantastic offer of help which will really be appreciated by our nurses.

“Wearing PPE over traditional uniforms was proving to be hot, uncomfortable and ultimately draining and the scrubs will make a huge difference to nurses’ working life and improve even further the care they are able to offer. We can’t thank Victoria and her army of helpers enough.”

The scrubs initiative is the latest project to help St Teresa’s endure the ravages of the current health crisis.

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown forced the Hospice to launch an emergency appeal, complete with a Just Giving page, www.justgiving.com/campaign/HugToStTs.

St Teresa’s Hospice needs £3m a year to continue its work to provide a raft of core services free of charge to patients and their families who are affected by life-limiting illness in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.

Traditional fundraising events have had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis and all its charity shops, except eBay, have had to close. The government’s emergency response, which compensates for some of the lost income from closure of its charity shops and curtailment of all fundraising events, won’t prevent a financial deficit this year.