An NHS nurse who founded and co-ordinated a national movement to make scrubs for frontline workers when supplies ran short during the coronavirus pandemic has been made an OBE.
Ashleigh Linsdell started For The Love of Scrubs when she and colleagues in the A&E department where she worked at the time were struggling with unsuitable personal protective equipment (PPE).
Disposable paper scrubs were prone to splitting and were often ill-fitting, she said, adding: “You can’t be a professional nurse giving the care that you require when you are so uncomfortable.”
She used her own money to buy fabric from wholesalers and make scrubs for colleagues, helped by her experience of running a small business making children’s clothes.
The, 30-year-old, of Cambridge, was encouraged to set up a Facebook page and things spiralled from there.
More than 70,000 volunteers helped make 1.2 million items of PPE for frontline workers, and a further million face coverings in addition.
People initially self-funded to sew scrubs, before a fundraising campaign raised more than £1 million to buy fabric to make PPE.
The operation was run from her home, with material cut there and sent to volunteers to make into scrubs and her husband George Linsdell liaising with hospitals.
Two months on, the movement had 148 sub-groups around the country to help organise local activity.
She has been honoured for her services to the NHS during the Covid-19 response.
“I cried when I found out,” she said. “I had absolutely no idea.”
She said her husband initially thought the email from a ‘.gov’ address was a scam.
“This is still so surreal,” said Mrs Linsdell.
“It all started with this really naive idea.
“I had no idea that it would snowball and escalate to where we are now, but we have helped hundreds of thousands of frontline workers to be safe in their practice which then ensures that our patients are safe.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without our thousands of volunteers.”
Mrs Linsdell, who now works as a community specialist nurse in East Anglia, said the group initially made PPE for NHS trusts then broadened out to care homes, hospices, GP surgeries and NHS dentists.
Some wholesalers donated material, and Mrs Linsdell added: “We’ve had wholesalers who’ve said that we’ve kept them in business.
“They were about to furlough staff and because we’ve spent so much money with them we’ve kept small businesses afloat during Covid.”
She said she is still asked for PPE but as the supply chain picks up the group is trying to scale back its operation and signpost people to suppliers.
“We obviously don’t want to make businesses go out of business,” she said, adding: “If there’s a genuine need then we’re willing to help.”
Most volunteers are in the UK but there are some in America and Australia, Mrs Linsdell said, adding that she was contacted by someone in Cyprus who wanted to start a similar group there.
She said news of her OBE had yet to sink in, adding: “This doesn’t happen to normal people, and I’m just a nurse.”