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Outstanding health trust receives national recognition for its procurement transformation

Friday, 01 October, 2021
Outstanding health trust receives national recognition for its procurement transformation

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has taken home the award for ‘NHS Procurement Transformation’ at this year’s NHS in the North Excellence in Supply awards.


The outstanding health trust was awarded for its Manufacturing and Innovation Hub, based in Seaton Delaval, which produces personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies for health care services.

The specialist Northern award celebrates the development of inspirational collaborations between the health service and its suppliers across the North of England – many prompted by the fight against COVID-19.

At the beginning of the global pandemic, a sudden demand arose for PPE at a local level for health and social care providers. This local demand quickly outstripped national supply, and so Northumbria Healthcare opened its own production hub.

The project has been a huge success – so much so that the trust had to purchase a bigger site (40,000 sq/m) to run the operation from. Seeing through its two millionth gown mile stone at the end of 2020, the innovative venture is paving the way for the future of PPE provision for the health sector.

Historically the region has had a booming textile industry with some of the main garment and textile producers operating within Northumberland and the North East.  However, more recently most companies have relocated to Europe or China leaving this industry a shadow of its former self.

However, one local producer with a family history of textile and garment production, wanted to help.  The trust employed this individual to provide expert knowledge and advice and by May 2020, the trust was producing isolation gowns and distributing them across the North with some reaching Lancashire and beyond.

By October, with expanding capacity and capability, the hub had produced two million isolation gowns and developed new products including, scrubs, theatre hoods, masks, theatre hats and pillows.

The opening of the factory has also made a huge contribution to local economy too – offering over 60 new jobs to local communities. In addition, there are ten apprenticeship opportunities to encourage youngsters to explore a career in manufacturing. The hub offers positions in sewing, cutting, warehouse and business administration and machine mechanics.

Sarah Rose, Divisional Director of the Manufacturing and Innovation Hub explained: “Lending my expertise to this NHS led innovation has been incredibly rewarding. We have worked hard to ensure that all products go through rigorous testing, applying the ‘outstanding’ ethos to our production activities too. It’s fantastic to see machinists being given a platform to showcase their skills, contributing to the regional fight against COVID-19 at a time when many were at home, out of work. It really has been a team effort and I am thrilled that we have won such a prestigious award.”

Sir James Mackey, Chief Executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who also spoke at the event, said: “One of the big things that sticks in my memory is the last conversation I had on Maundy Thursday with a national colleague about the problems we were having with gown production.

“[I remember] leaving the call thinking: ‘I’ve never really had a situation where we didn’t have the supplies that we need.’

“And so, in a true Northumbrian, North-Eastern way, colleagues here mobilised efforts working with a local fabric and textile expert, to open the PPE production factory. ‘

“This award recognises the huge efforts of all involved, in bringing about a solution that is not just limited to our response to the pandemic but is part of our strategy to future proof our service.”