April 29, 2020 @ 9:46 by Steven Hugill
A city’s oldest manufacturing company has joined the effort to beat coronavirus by committing to produce thousands of NHS gowns.
Sunderland-based Speedings, established nearly 200 years ago, has stepped up work at its Leechmere factory to make clothing for frontline hospital staff across the North East and Yorkshire.
The company – which was the first set up to make sails for ships built on the River Wear – says it will manufacture in excess of 700 items a day during normal shifts.
However, bosses have added a second evening shift to increase the daily figure to 1700.
Speedings, which currently employs more than 40 staff, already has contracts with emergency services, including the NHS and Fire Service, and is known for producing response bags for teams across the country.
Rob Hammal, managing director, said: “As an existing supplier to the NHS, we were keen to support as best as possible, so when the call came in for gowns, we wanted to do all we could to get them into production as quickly as possible.
“It’s a time when everyone needs to come together and do what they can, so we are glad to be able to help.
“I’m really grateful to the team who are stepping up to the plate to get these into production as quickly as possible, so that our incredible NHS has the supplies it needs.
“I’m also grateful to our existing customers, many of whom have agreed to take smaller quantities of their items or put back their orders to allow us to fulfil this urgent order.”
He added the team will make the gowns in addition to items the company normally produces, such as its emergency service kit bags and items for major brands like Nissan.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said he was proud of the effort businesses in the city are making to help the UK combat coronavirus.
He added: “Speedings has an incredibly proud history, and during what will no doubt come to be remembered as one of the greatest challenges the world has faced, it is fitting that the city’s oldest manufacturer is turning its hand to producing items that will support the effort to beat this virus.
“It has been incredible to see so many Sunderland businesses stepping up to beat COVID-19 and I am enormously proud of each and every one of them.”