April 23, 2020 @ 12:19 by Steven Hugill
A family-owned car dealership group is helping drive forward efforts to support the NHS during the coronavirus outbreak.
Wingrove Motor Company has seconded its main distribution centre into a makeshift protective equipment manufacturing hub.
Once fully operational, bosses say the site – which will run for an initial three-month period – will be capable of making up to 7500 medical gowns a week.
After being approached to see if it could help Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust combat COVID-19, the company offered its 14,400sq ft distribution centre and warehouse on Cramlington’s Nelson Industrial Estate.
With the site now stripped of parts – after staff observed strict social distancing protocols – the base is ready for NHS engineers to install necessary machinery and equipment.
Bosses say the medical gowns will initially be made available to staff in the North East but, as production increases, stock will be shared more widely across England.
Managing director Josh Parker, who is part of the fifth generation of the founding family to work for the business, said: “We’re all in awe of the incredible work being done by NHS staff across the North East in the most difficult of conditions, and it’s a real honour and a privilege for us to be able to support them in this way.
“Our team has done a fantastic job in emptying out our distribution centre in such a short space of time and work is now ongoing to get the production line up and running as quickly as possible.
“We very much hope this project makes a real contribution to the health and well-being of people living in the communities that we’re proud to have been part of for almost a century.”
Sir James Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, praised Wingrove for its support during such unprecedented times.
He added: “We are receiving personal protective equipment through the national NHS supply chain, but we know there is a huge demand for supplies globally, which is a challenge.
“This extra support is vital to keeping stocks flowing as we use thousands of pieces of equipment every day across the region.
“The new facility in Cramlington and the wider support we have from businesses means we can manage supply, from design to the frontline.”
Nicola Tiffen, partner in the commercial property team at Wingrove’s long-term advisers Hay & Kilner Law Firm, put the required legal documentation in place to support the new arrangements.
She added: “This is an amazing effort by everyone involved to completely turn around such a large facility for a completely new purpose and we’re very pleased to have been part of getting such an important project in place.”
Founded in 1925, Wingrove Motor Company operates the official North East franchises for Citroën, Peugeot and DS, and employs 90 people across its Newcastle West Road, Silverlink and Ashington dealerships and service centres.