A Bideford inventor has rallied a small army of sewing machinists to make medical scrubs for those on the coronavirus frontline.

Denise Anstey with the bolts of raw material she ordered to make into scrubs for healthcare workers. Picture: Neil WhitelandDenise Anstey with the bolts of raw material she ordered to make into scrubs for healthcare workers. Picture: Neil Whiteland

With brilliant support from local people and businesses, Denise Anstey co-ordinated the creation of 206 sets of scrubs and hopes to be able to continue producing more.

When the pandemic hit, she had to put on hold her own business of making research-led products to help people living with dementia.

When she saw posts on social media about local healthcare workers lacking in basic scrubs, she decided to do something about it.

She spent £1,700 of her own money and ordered nine rolls of the correct material from fabric wholesalers and set about gathering 170 sewing machinists through the power of social media.

The first set of finished medical scrubs for healthcare workers on the coronavirus frontline. Picture: Neil WhitelandThe first set of finished medical scrubs for healthcare workers on the coronavirus frontline. Picture: Neil Whiteland

Denise found the challenge a struggle as she spent 12 years incapacitated after a serious car accident and was told she would never walk again, so moving heavy piles of cloth around is not easy.

She said: “I set up a procedure taking into account social distancing and safety measures.

“It was quite an amazing feat of change, so I feel quite proud to know that I managed to adjust, change and re-adapt to deliver on this task and support the community in a time of great need.

“I received a very kind offer to cut the fabric from Chris Reed who owns a factory in Braunton called Chill Cheater and another kind lady bought another two rolls of fabric and threads.

The raw materials needed to make the medical scrubs. Picture: Neil WhitelandThe raw materials needed to make the medical scrubs. Picture: Neil Whiteland

“I then linked up with other machinists from Ilfracombe, South and North Molton, Torrington, Holsworthy, Torbay, Barnstaple and Bideford.”

Denise was awarded the British Female Inventor and Innovators Award in 2009 for a safety and security walking stick which she designed from her own disability and which was spoken of by the then NHS Health Secretary and endorsed by inventor Trevor Baylis OBE, CBE.

She added: “Although we have allocated all our 206 scrubs we received a call from a distraught nurse as she had no coveralls at all, just a dress which offered her no protection and so I bought another 50 metres of fabric which I will have to hand cut so I can deliver more items to those who desperately need them.

“The thought of our healthcare workers not having the right coveralls is just too heart wrenching.

“This is not about me, this is about a wonderful Community working together for a good cause and to help our healthcare workers in a time of great need.

“Without the volunteers, this would never have been able to happen on this scale so I am so very, very thankful for their help.”