Working alongside her peers Brooke, Rebecca and Maya, Annabel Maguire is the co-ordinator of ScrubHub, a volunteer organisation providing scrubs to NHS workers fighting against Coronavirus
Reader's Digest: How did ScrubHub get started, and how would you best summarise what you offer?
A doctor (Dr Katie Ward) in our local aid WhatsApp group was struggling to find scrubs to wear during the crisis and reached out for help. As four neighbours working across the fashion and charity worlds we knew we had the skills to help, and we quickly realised she wasn’t the only one in need. We now have a community production line producing batches of scrubs for local doctors or NHS workers in Hackney.
We have also shared all the information we have gathered so far so that others who are equipped can follow suit and set up their own scrub making hubs and share our online resources. So far, we have 20 + hubs pop up across the country, offering the same localised scrub making service in their community. All hubs operate within the guidelines of the lockdown, with zero contact.
Fabric cutting is done in isolation, meetings happen over zoom, decision making over WhatsApp and email and our delivery volunteers knock and drop sewing kits to local seamstresses on their exercise breaks. We’ve had to be agile to adapt to these new and quite unusual circumstances to keep the work flowing.
RD: What careers are your team in outside of this initiative?
In our core founding team we have Brooke who runs the amazing Make Town, a textiles and craft studio which has become the centre of our hub, we have Rebecca who is a pattern cutter in the fashion industry, Maya who works in the charity sector, and I (Annabel) am a set designer for fashion. Many of the seamstresses volunteering are professionals from the fashion and costume world.
RD: What does a typical day of managing ScrubHub look like at the moment?
It differs in each team, at Make Town, Brooke will be doing anything from ordering or cutting our bulk fabric orders to packaging the finished scrubs for distribution. Rebecca prepares patterns for our volunteers, and Maya and Annabel are organising volunteers and the logistics, fielding orders and liaising with doctors and the wider scrub hub community, which is ever growing.
We also see to press, Instagram and website management. Challenges come up in different areas—I think at first it was managing the massive influx of both volunteers and orders from doctors and realising the sheer magnitude of the situation across the country.
Most recently it has been trying to source fabric as the readily available supplies of cotton drill are dwindling in the UK.
RD: What have been the big wins so far?
I think the biggest win was delivering our first batch of scrubs and getting fantastic feedback from the doctors. Seeing their relief and the direct help we had was really special and spurred us on. There were lots of happy tears.
Another big win was when the second ScrubHub, ScrubHub South East London, set themselves up using our guidelines and we realised that our local initiative could be successfully replicated across the country meaning more doctors and health care workers would benefit.
"My hopes for the NHS is that the public see how necessary it is that we nurture it and that they demand that it is no longer stifled by a political agenda which is keen to dismantle and privatise it for their own profit"
RD: You’re all doing an amazing thing, but how are you managing your mental health during this time?
This has been an important consideration for us as a team. We’ve have to remember to look after ourselves, as this is the best way we can be there to help the NHS. The support and love amongst not just our own local team, but within the wider UK ScrubHub community has been incredible and I think this positive energy has really helped us all through the more stressful moments. Many hands make light work and we remind ourselves often to take breaks.
RD: What are you doing to switch off, if you’re able to at all?
This is a great question. It has sometimes been hard to switch off due to the urgency of the situation. Brooke has been busy being creative and has been creating craft kits for kids, Maya has been balancing Scrub Hub and working full time, but has squeezed in some knitting and baking, and Rebecca has been spending time finishing her own sewing projects. I’ve been watching my seedlings grow and nursing a sourdough starter.
RD: Coronavirus has been a big wake-up call for anybody who didn’t already value the NHS and cherish its role in British society. What are your hopes for improvement in support for the NHS in coming months and years?
We hope that our community effort will highlight to the public the chronic lack of funding the NHS has had over a number of years. We are experiencing the realities of this first hand right now, with the people who are here dedicated to keeping us safe being sorely let down. Sadly in some cases they have lost their lives.
Supplies of essential equipment including scrubs and PPE were at dangerously low levels even before we hit a crisis, and trusts weren’t able to stockpile as needed. Health care workers have been warning us about the starvation of the NHS for years, and I really hope the public can finally listen and translate their admiration for not just our community of volunteers, but of course the real heroes, our frontline workers, use their voice and their vote to help keep them safe in the future.
We hope it also highlights a little about how scrubs are normally sourced through global supply chains, and whether a partnership between the NHS and UK manufacturers could be fostered and developed beyond the crisis.
My hopes for the NHS is that the public see how necessary it is that we nurture it and that they demand that it is no longer stifled by a political agenda which is keen to dismantle and privatise it for their own profit.
RD: How can people get involved with ScrubHub, both as volunteers and as donators?
Anyone who wants to find out more can head to our website scrub hub.org.uk. Some locations are full for volunteers at the moment, but you can also look into setting up your own hub and we have a detailed guide there too for anyone interested.
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