Coronavirus update: the latest news from East Midlands businesses

A popular Leicestershire tourist attraction has transformed its model-making workshop into a production line for fastenings to secure protective face masks for front line health workers at hospitals in the East Midlands.

Soar Valley Garden Railway may be closed to the public because of the coronavirus crisis, but the small enterprise is far from running out of steam when it comes to using its 3D printer to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) and, with more than a little help from Narborough-based Translink Express Logistics, a member of the Pallet-Track network, delivering thousands of the surgical face mask ‘grips’ free of charge, to help keep NHS staff safe.

Based in the garden of Bonington’s Tea Room and Gift Shop in Sutton Bonington, Loughborough, close to the borders with Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Soar Valley Garden Railway has now become a collection and distribution hub, as well as a quality control centre for the vital mask grips.

A team of 11 volunteers are also using their machines to step up the delivery effort to the Loughborough Partnership Trust Hospitals, Nottingham University Hospitals and Derby Hospitals.

It has also set up a crowdfunding page to fund more materials for other PPE equipment, including ear protectors which prevent chafing from elastic fastenings. It has made more than 5,000 of these so far.

Martin Paling, workshop manager at Soar Valley, said: “We’d seen that a young boy in Canada had 3D printed ear protectors for his local hospital and, as our business is closed due to Covid-19, we decided to turn our machines to making them too. My wife works at Loughborough Hospital and asked her colleagues if they’d like some and we quickly went from 100 orders on the first day to 2,000 on the second day.

“Doctors and nurses were telling us their ears were starting to bleed and one nurse told us it was like winning the lottery after coping with a week of pain.

“It wasn’t long before we were swamped with orders from all of the different hospital wards and departments, so started talking to the procurement offices at Nottingham and Leicestershire Hospitals to help streamline distribution.

“The final piece of the jigsaw was having Translink Express offering to deliver to the hospitals for free.”

Chris Hobbis, commercial director at Translink, said: “After hearing about the excellent work that the guys from Soar Valley Garden Railway were doing for the NHS from one of our drivers Andy Bootles, we were more than happy to help.

“I initially spoke with Andy to find out what this project was all about and in no time at all I knew that we should try and do something to assist. He put me in contact with Martin from Soar Valley who inspired me further with his concept to help the NHS.

“Without a second thought we agreed to help deliver the goods to the hospitals so that the team at Soar Valley could focus on manufacturing the products and getting on with their continued efforts to support the NHS.

“The NHS is doing an outstanding job as always and people like Soar Valley Garden Railways are truly inspirational to us all.”


Online pharmacy UK Meds has donated  7,100 PPE items to community health services provider Nottingham CityCare Partnership – to help its healthcare workers across the city continue the fight against coronavirus.

UK Meds, which is based in Castle Marina, in Nottingham, and operates nationally, teamed up with Nottingham Forest FC to donate a huge parcel of goods – which included 5,500 face masks, 600 disposable aprons, 500 face visors and 500 bottles of hand gel.

CityCare delivers a range of nursing and healthcare services to the local community – including Nottingham’s Urgent Care Centre. UK Meds, which is Nottingham Forest’s back-of-shirt and training wear sponsor for the 2019/20 season, approached the championship club to help support CityCare after hearing there were shortages in protective medical equipment.

Joe Soiza, managing director at UK Meds, handed over the £15,000 of equipment to CityCare at the City Ground. He said: “PPE shortages have been in the headlines daily and products such as face masks continue to be in high demand from the general public as people look to stock up and protect themselves from the virus. This has made it even more difficult for health and care workers to access the protective equipment they need.

“We are dedicated to making sure those on the frontline have the protection they need in order to safely treat patients suffering with coronavirus and minimise the risk of passing the virus onto those most vulnerable.”

Lyn Bacon, chief executive at Nottingham CityCare, said: “We’re delighted that UK Meds and Nottingham Forest have donated face masks to our teams delivering care to the community. It’s in a challenging time for everyone in the health and care sector and this support from local businesses shows how we are pulling together to overcome this.

“The face masks will help our workers to continue to deliver essential services and support the people of Nottingham.”


Denise Williamson

Locked in with… Denise Williamson, managing director, Bookwise Solutions

Who are you locked in with?
I’m with my partner who is also working from home. They started doing this a week before me though, so they have the best ‘home office’ position next to the bi-fold doors, looking at the garden on the sunny side of the house (not that I’m bitter!)

How has the lockdown and working from home been for you so far?
Naturally it’s felt very strange, as I’m sure it has for everyone. In some ways, certain tasks can take longer to complete. We have lots of technology in place to communicate in various ways, but it can take a bit more planning – gone are the days or just grabbing someone for a quick chat in the office.

There are elements I’m enjoying about working from home – it’s stopped me from getting involved in things that don’t need my attention, allowing me to have more time to spend forward planning for the business – but personally I’m looking forward to being back in the office environment with my team.

What has been the best thing about staying in?
Getting ready in the morning is a lot simpler – it’s quite nice to not spend time on my hair and makeup!

And what have you missed the most?
I miss my family a lot, and the freedom to do the things that previously we probably used to take for granted. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to become fixated on all of the messages from the media explaining what we can’t do now – to combat this, I’ve limited watching the news to only once a day.

What previously essential thing have you realised is not actually essential?
I have realised that it’s not essential to be racing around at every spare moment. I’m getting on OK at this calmer pace of life however, given the choice I do find keeping busy is enjoyable, so I shall probably get right back into the habit as soon as I can…

What are the changes you’ve made that you plan on continuing when restrictions are lifted?
I’ve made some changes that I definitely don’t want to continue, such as eating more and watching more TV! When it comes to work, we haven’t changed our use of technology when it comes to customer support but rather, we’ve enhanced it – it’s easier than ever for our customers to get in touch if they have any queries, so we’ll be sure to ensure that this level of service continues once restrictions are lifted.

Have you made progress on any of your bucket list items?
Making a bucket list is going to be the first thing on my new bucket list. This time has really made me aware of how much I took my freedom for granted, so I’ll fill it with everything that I wish I was able to spend my time doing now.

What is the first thing you will do when isolation ends?
Relax, safe in the knowledge that we are through the other side and we can start to plan our futures again. That, and book an appointment at the hairdressers as soon as possible!

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