Power of the needle: 4 women help UK docs needing scrubs

Full Screen
1 / 10

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Textile artist Brooke Dennis, who is originally from New Zealand, makes scrubs for NHS (National Health Service) staff to wear during the coronavirus outbreak, at her textiles and craft studio called Make Town, in east London, Thursday, April 23, 2020, as part of the Scrub Hub network of voluntary community groups. The Scrub Hub just wanted to help, but they created a movement with some 70 hubs employing the skills of more than 2,200 volunteers all over the nation responding to the coronavirus pandemic, with a template for PPE, a pattern that so far has made more than 3,800 sets of scrubs for healthcare workers. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON – They just wanted to help. But they created a movement.

Four women from London's Hackney Wick neighborhood responded to the coronavirus pandemic by organizing volunteers who so far have churned out more than 3,800 sets of scrubs for health care workers after Britain’s National Health Service was unable to provide enough of the pajama-like garments.

More importantly, they helped organize a nation, putting together a template for making basic personal protection equipment, or PPE, with organizational ideas and a pattern for the scrubs so others could do the same. Now some 70 "Scrub Hubs″ with more than 2,200 volunteers are busily sewing away from Scotland to Wales.

“Very quickly, we discovered that Hackney was not just the (only) place where PPE was needed,’’ said one organizer, Brooke Dennis, 33. “It was needed all across the land.’’

The story of how four women used social media to create and deliver desperately needed medical supplies around the U.K. began with a request from a single doctor: I need scrubs to do my job. Can anyone help?

That surprised charity worker Maya Ilany, 29. The idea that the NHS might not have enough of something so basic startled her. She googled the doctor. “I thought: It's a joke,'' she recalled.

It wasn't.

Medical staff across the world have struggled to obtain enough personal protective equipment, including face shields, gloves and masks, to protect themselves from the virus as they work to save lives. As the crisis deepened, the situation only got worse, even as the British government insisted it had done all it could amid international shortages and disrupted supply lines.