Coronavirus Appeal Stories: Taunton Scrubbers

Taunton Scrubbers are a group of volunteers who are working together to support community health workers in and around Taunton and beyond by putting their sewing skills to use.

Susan McDonnell tells us how a £2,500 grant from the Somerset Coronavirus Appeal is helping local NHS staff.

“There is a shortage of scrubs and PPE for a number of reasons, but mainly – due to the coronavirus outbreak – it’s simply that more people now have to wear them, and they are changing their scrubs up to three times a day. There has been a ten-fold increase in the need for scrubs, and a decrease in the number of deliveries. We rely on them getting to us from overseas, and when they arrive here they then need to be quarantined before they can be used.

There’s an enormous demand, with all types of community health workers requiring them, such as the Somerset NHS Trust, hospitals, GPs, care homes, mental health units – they all need to wear them.

In late March I posted on the Taunton coronavirus support group on Facebook, asking if any sewers were interested in getting involved. The group started doubling every two days until we got to where we are now, with around 1,000 members: our youngest is 6 years old and our oldest is 91.

I started making the scrubs but very soon found myself instead running a big organisation from my living room, with delivery support from the local driving school and other local people who had been furloughed. I’d say we’ve made around 2,000 sets of scrubs so far. We also make scrubs wash bags, headbands to protect the skin behind the ears, operation gowns and scrubs caps. It takes our fastest sewers around 90 minutes to make a set of scrubs, but for most people it takes the best part of a day. 

To start with people and local businesses donated fabric – curtains, quilt covers, sheets, tablecloths, as well as actual fabric. Not all of it was usable, so we donated some of it on to homeless charities. 

We have around 700 volunteers making up to 600 sets of scrubs a day, every day. We have another 100 or so people helping in other ways, such as the admin and deliveries.

We’ve bought much-needed fabric with the money from the grant. The Somerset Coronavirus Appeal grant we received from Somerset Community Foundation has made an enormous difference – it’s been just fantastic.”


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