Charity buys 1.5m aprons from home front… and donations soar to £7m

Now your Mail Force PPE is made in Britain! After the great China airlift, charity buys 1.5m aprons from the home front… and donations soar to £7million

  • Charity yesterday began first deliveries of new range of gear – and none of it had been flown around the world
  • The first of more than a million hospital aprons travelled just 30 miles from a former cotton mill in Blackburn
  • A Mail Force van delivered 30,000 aprons and 100 protective face visors for a busy health trust in Manchester
  • It was just a fraction of initial order of 1.5m aprons that will be channelled into main NHS distribution network
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Doctors, nurses and care staff can now fight coronavirus with a fresh supply of British-made protective equipment thanks to Mail Force.

The charity yesterday began the first deliveries of the new range of gear – and none of it had been flown around the world.

The first of more than a million hospital aprons travelled just 30 miles from a former cotton mill in Blackburn to the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

‘We are grateful for all we can get, and if it is made around the corner, so much the better,’ said Peter Morgan, infection nursing chief at 450-bed Tameside General Hospital as the Mail Force van pulled up.

Inside were 30,000 aprons and 100 protective face visors for a busy health trust serving 250,000 people on Manchester’s eastern fringe.

Senior buyer Rachel Jenkinson, left, Consultant Neil Pender, centre, and Chief Operating Officer Trish Cavanagh with Mail Force parcels at Tameside General Hospital in Ashton under Lyne, Greater Manchester

Senior buyer Ms Jenkinson, pictured with the PPE delivery to staff at Tameside Hospital. Mail Force yesterday began the first deliveries of the new range of gear – and none of it had been flown around the world


Mail Force Charity has been launched with one aim to help support NHS staff, volunteers and care workers fight back against Covid-1 in the UK.

Mail Force is a separate charity established and supported by the Daily Mail and General Trust. 

The money raised will fund essential equipment required by the NHS and care workers. 

This equipment is vital in protecting the heroic staff whilst they perform their fantastic work in helping the UK overcome this pandemic.

If we raise more money than is needed for vital Covid-1 equipment, we will apply all funds to support the work of the NHS in other ways.

Click the button below to make a donation:

If the button is not visible, click here 

Having handled more than 1,000 confirmed virus cases (142 of them fatal) it is now looking after 51 victims. For Mr Morgan and his colleagues, every piece of personal protective equipment – including the hospital apron – is essential in bringing those numbers down to zero.

This vanload, however, was just a tiny fraction of Mail Force’s initial order of 1.5million aprons that will now be channelled into the main NHS distribution network over the next three weeks.

It matches an identical order from the NHS itself for UK-made aprons that will be produced at a factory in the Midlands.

Yesterday, the Mail went to see the first of the Mail Force aprons come off the production line at Griffin Mill in Blackburn.

A red-brick Edwardian textile mill, it was latterly a carpet factory for decades until cheap international competition did for the carpet-makers and it has since ended up churning out assorted forms of polythene.

Beneath giant rotating spools of blue, white and yellow plastic, a team of 30 staff are working round the clock in three shifts to keep pace with demand.

‘When the pandemic started, items like these were all being imported from the Far East so it feels good to be making them for our own NHS,’ said Habib Patel, owner of More Polythene yesterday.

Pre-virus, his factory was making bespoke wrappings for clothing and food products for our major high street retailers. Business then took a sharp downward turn.

Now, though, staff put on the Government’s furlough scheme have been summoned back to make aprons while another four workers have been employed to help maintain production levels.

A hospital apron is not a complicated bit of kit – it is essentially stamped out of a sheet of plastic – but it is vital in preventing any infection passing from patient to medical staff. And because these things should be changed every time a healthcare worker moves from one patient to another, they are needed in vast quantities. There have been moments when some healthcare providers have come dangerously close to running out.

Last month three nurses on a coronavirus ward at a north London hospital were photographed wearing binliners in the absence of aprons. All three subsequently tested positive for the virus.

That grim story alone explains why this simple piece of equipment is such a key part of the anti-Covid armoury. It has certainly given some of the staff at Griffin Mill a renewed sense of purpose.

‘It’s nice to know that, in some way, we are helping to propel the work of the NHS,’ says Habib Patel whose brother, Zaki, is a GP. One of the longest-serving members of staff, delivery driver Zia Ul-Haq, 59, is equally pleased to be doing something for the cause.

PPE medical aprons are manufactured at More Polythene in Blackburn, Lancashire. The factory’s owner, Habib Patel, said it ‘feels good’ to be making the items ‘for our own NHS’ 

Medical aprons being manufactured at More Polythene factory. Staff put on the Government’s furlough scheme have been summoned back to make aprons while another four workers have been employed to help maintain production levels

Three of his seven children are doctors and his eldest daughter is working on a nearby coronavirus ward. ‘Here we are making these aprons – and she will be wearing one!’ says Zia, proudly.

From Griffin Mill, all pallets of new aprons are taken up the road to Mail Force’s local partner, the Issa Group, which already provides medical supplies to hospital trusts all over the North West.

There our first delivery was wrapped up and loaded, along with boxes of face visors and thousands of bottles of (home-produced) hand sanitiser that Issa kindly added to our donation.

At Tameside General Hospital, our first port of call, the staff were delighted to see fresh supplies for the PPE store.

This is a well-run hospital with no immediate shortages but it makes everyone sleep a little sounder to know that the cupboard has been restocked and that so many members of the public are contributing to a fighting fund like Mail Force.

‘It’s really important for the staff to know how much people care – and it’s great when local people have been making it,’ said chief operating officer, Trish Cavanagh, herself a former nurse.

Head nurse Peter Morgan pictured with hand sanitiser during the PPE delivery to staff at Tameside Hospital. For Mr Morgan and his colleagues, every piece of PPE is essential in bringing the number of coronavirus cases down to zero

Still in his scrubs, palliative care consultant Dr Neil Pender, appeared. He was in full agreement. ‘Anything that makes people feel safer is a great thing and this thing is going to be with us for quite some time,’ he said.

The hospital trust works closely with the local and regional authorities. Our next stop was Dukinfield Town Hall where Mark Whitehead, head of Tameside’s adult care operations, and his team came out to unload a further batch of aprons, visors and hand sanitiser.

This was destined for more than 70 care providers, including charities, care homes and hospices.

Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, voiced his delight at this vital local contribution to fighting a national crisis.

‘We are very grateful for this generous donation,’ he said. ‘A significant amount of work is taking place across Greater Manchester to ensure that our front-line workers can feel confident in having the right kit to do their vital work.

‘Thanks to donations like this and with everyone pulling together, we are able to keep supplies stable across the city-region.’

It is a small point in the scheme of things. But all over the country – not just here in the North West – people will be glad to know that somewhere among the vast mountains of PPE being consumed across the UK, there is now a substantial chunk that can say: ‘Made in Lancashire.’

…and one of the first to benefit is care home that’s just up the road

By Robert Hardman for the Daily Mail

Like almost every care home in the land, they have endured some very troubling times here of late at The Lakes in Dukinfield, near Manchester.

So things were certainly looking up yesterday with the arrival of a Mail Force van, bringing locally-made personal protective equipment to the team of 90 staff who work here.

Covid-19 first darkened their door back in late March and, inevitably, some of those patients have not recovered.

The precise numbers of coronavirus infections are uncertain simply because of the lack of testing in the care home sector but the statistics point to a sadly familiar story. There are currently 55 residents while 22 beds now lie empty. All had been occupied when the pandemic began.

However, the dedicated team of nurses and carers have managed to see off the virus. There are no symptoms among the residents nor among the staff, either. That is exactly the way manager Annette Peace wants to keep things.

Ready to wear: Staff at the The Lakes in Dukinfield with their Mail Force delivery. Pictured from left to right: Sue Houston, Lisa Cannon, Beverley Craig and Annette Peace

With your help she can – and that is why she and her team were thrilled when a Mail Force van turned up yesterday bringing a consignment of 1,000 hospital aprons, 100 visors and dozens of all-in-one coveralls. And they were even more delighted to learn that most of it had been made, not in the Far East, but just up the road in Lancashire.

‘We always try to use local businesses when we can. So it’s great to know that this has come from the area,’ said Annette yesterday.

A trained nurse, she has been at The Lakes for 21 years – and has been struck down with the virus herself during this pandemic. One of her recurring worries has been sourcing personal protective equipment.

‘We kept getting conflicting advice on what to wear and when – and it is still changing,’ she said.

‘It did make it hard to plan. It also meant that, at times, we were running out of some items in the morning and wondering whether there would be fresh supplies in the afternoon.’

The local social services from Tameside council, she said, had frequently come to the rescue at the last moment and she said support from the community had been ‘wonderful’. However, surveying the latest delivery from the Mail Force van, she added: ‘Cake is always lovely, of course. But this stuff is life-saving.’

£2m from you…£7m in total: It’s the campaign that’s captured the imagination of the nation – and as cheques keep flooding in, you tell us how much it means to be able to help our caring heroes

By Arthur Martin, Claire Duffin and Andy Dolan for the Daily Mail

It took only took a week for your big-hearted donations to reach £1million.

Now you’ve broken through the £2million barrier in just over a fortnight.

Another 4,700 cheques arrived yesterday, taking the total amount donated to Mail Force by almost 44,000 Daily Mail readers soaring past £2.1million.

So far 25,700 of you have sent envelopes containing a staggering £1.3million in cheques to the charity – backed by the Daily Mail – which is leading a campaign to ease the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) faced by NHS and care staff.

Mountain of money: Daily Mail reporter Claire Duffin with heaps of your posted donations to the Mail Force PPE appeal. So far 25,700 of you have sent envelopes containing a staggering £1.3million in cheques

A total of 18,000 of you have donated almost £750,000 through the online fundraising page and one generous reader has pledged £100,000 anonymously.

Your donations, along with generous pledges from philanthropists and corporate partners, have helped the fund reach £7.1million.

Such is the scale of your generosity, that it takes ten volunteers a full day to open all your letters and then send the cheques to the bank. If all the cheques were placed in a line they would now stretch across central London from Trafalgar Square to the Tower of London.

Hundreds of your donations come with colourful greetings cards, postcards and beautifully written notes – each expressing gratitude to the NHS and care workers.

Some of you felt compelled to donate because of the excellent treatment you have previously received from doctors and nurses.

And once again, readers pledged money to the charity to honour the memory of a relative, friend or neighbour.

Alongside his donation, Colin Griffiths wrote: ‘I am donating this cheque in memory of my eldest son Mark (age 57) who passed away on April 5 with the virus.’

Mr Griffiths said he made the pledge on behalf of ‘everybody involved in care at this sad and terrible time’.

Mary Farrell, from Wigston in Leicestershire, sent money in memory of her partner William, who died aged 90 last month.

She wrote: ‘He spent several weeks lonely at home and finally alone in hospital. Anything anyone can do to support those able to assist must be done until we are able to overcome this deadly virus.’ Glenn Cole pledged money to the charity after a nurse called Jayne, who was also his neighbour, died recently.

He wrote: ‘I applaud the Daily Mail’s initiative and support all NHS staff and thank you for setting up this charity. My payment is in Jayne’s memory and with grateful thanks to all NHS staff.’

One note from Mr G Percox said: ‘This is in memory of my dear friend Christine Morgan who passed away on 28/04/20.’

The cheques have come from every corner of the UK, pledging donations from £5 to £2,000. Some gave generous portions of their pension, while others donated hundreds of pounds from their salaries and savings.

Mr H Langford donated a full week of his pension after reading about how Mail Force flew 20tons of PPE to the UK two weeks ago.

He wrote: ‘I want to thank you for all your efforts to help in this crisis. I was waiting for you to start an appeal fund as I knew you would do but to launch it with an airliner full of PPE was amazing.

‘I am a 76-year-old widower with health problems so there is nothing I can do to help the NHS and care home carers. All I can do is donate to your fund so I have enclosed one full week of my pension and I am pleased to be able to donate in this way.’

Judith Storie and her husband are both over 70 and self-isolating in Telford, Shropshire. Mrs Storrie sent in a generous cheque after noticing that their carers ‘haven’t always had PPE equipment’.

Some letters fondly recalled the treatment you received in hospital. Maurice Owens wrote: ‘I am most grateful for the wonderful treatment I had at my local hospital, the Queen Alexandra in Portsmouth, for a severe head injury.

‘At 97 I am once again back home on my own (family all gone) enjoying life around me and wonderful friends.’

Mail Force chartered a jumbo jet packed with 20tons of personal protective equipment from Shanghai to London. The £1million cargo included 50,000 medical coveralls and 100,000 masks.

After passing safety tests, the equipment was delivered to a hospital, an ambulance trust, several care homes and a hospice. Household names who have thrown their support behind the charity include Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Michael Caine and Dame Vera Lynn.

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