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Private firms working for the public good in coronavirus outbreak




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People working for a wide range of private companies have been standing side-byside with public sector staff on the frontline during the coronavirus outbreak.

Staff at private sector firms have been doing their bit to help out communities across the country during the crisis.

This includes employees from many of the large outsourcing firms that the government works with, who have both shifted their resources to work on other projects and made sure vital services have continued.

Here are just some of the many examples from across the country....

Staff at private sector firms have been doing their bit to help out communities across the country during the crisis
Staff at private sector firms have been doing their bit to help out communities across the country during the crisis

‘Trying to make a difference’

At the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis, Britain’s hospitals had 8,000 ventilators. They now have 11,500 - of which more than 1,000 are from the Prime Minister’s Ventilator Challenge.

Babcock International is one of those companies which has stepped up to the challenge The company based in London has offices, specialist training facilities, dockyards, equipment testing centres and research and development facilities across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Chris Spicer is project manager for the ventilator challenge at the company He said: “On Monday, March 16 there was an email asking if there was any way Babcock could provide support. By the Friday we had a working prototype. The weekend was pretty busy preparing for a presentation to the government to propose what our offering would be, how it would meet the requirement specifications, our plan for building it, the time frame and also the volumes we could achieve.

“People worked round-the-clock to get it sorted and have continued to. We’ve used innovative, bespoke ways of moving forward. Some of the machine companies we use for submarine parts now make plastic valves for the ventilators.

"We all want to help in any small way we can. We all have relatives in vulnerable groups and that’s a driver – thinking if that was your father or your granny in that scenario how could you make that little bit of difference.

CHALLENGING TIMES: Chris Spicer is project manager for Babcock International
CHALLENGING TIMES: Chris Spicer is project manager for Babcock International

Ensuring the children of key workers are well fed

Feeding the children of key workers who have still been attending school during the coronavirus crisis has been a significant challenge. One of the firms that has been helping ensure children are well fed is ISS education, who work with more than 600 education establishments across the country.

It have been providing food hampers packed with all the ingredients families need to cook meals at home for their children. Linda Cregan is food services director for ISS education. She said around 200 of the schools it serves have stayed open to feed vulnerable and key worker children.

“We wanted to make sure we were doing everything possible and making it as easy as possible for schools to find solutions locally to what they needed,” she said.

“We have had a mixed bag offering packed lunches, collections, and hot meals.”

One of the establishments ISS has worked with is Waterton Academy Trust, which is based in Wakefield.

Linda said: “The trust wanted to be able to provide families with the ingredients that they could then cook the meals at home with for their children.”

Firms across the UK have shifted resources to work on coronovirus projects in a bid to support vital services
Firms across the UK have shifted resources to work on coronovirus projects in a bid to support vital services

Stepping up to support Nightingale North West

Global construction and support services company Interserve is among the many that has stepped up to help out in the current crisis. The company was already providing services ranging from security through to cleaning, catering, maintenance and portering duties to 11 NHS hospitals, six healthcare facilities, the London Ambulance Service and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service.

Within 11 days of taking an initial call, it had everything ready - from cleaning to catering - for Nightingale North West. Steve Francis works for Interserve as part of the facilities management team at the hospital.

He said: “Teams had to move quickly on the Nightingale contract. The company had a call from the NHS and 11 days later we were live.”

FAST WORK: Steve Francis.
FAST WORK: Steve Francis.

Virtual visiting brings comfort to families

A unique partnership of medical experts, academics, companies and charities has led to the creation of a way for families to see loved ones in intensive care without actually visiting them. The team have shared expertise and resources to help patients and families stay connected through Life Lines, a project which provides a secure virtual-visiting solution for families whose loved ones are being treated in intensive care units during the coronavirus pandemic.

It means that even though they can’t visit, family members can still be at the bedside via a tablet and secure app. The Life Lines project was set up by critical care consultant Dr Joel Meyer, professor of critical care nursing Professor Louise Rose and Michel Paquet, who developed the aTouchAway app used in the project,

and is the chief executive officer of Aetonix. Partners include King’s College London, King’s Health Partners, Aetonix, Bray Leino, Google and BT. Initial funding of £1m was provided by the True Colours Trust and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

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The companies doing their bit

  • Interserve has used 40 vehicles and 100 people from their probation team to deliver food to the elderly and vulnerable.
  • BAE Systems helped to secure more PPE equipment for NHS staff by using its industrial-scale 3D printers to make them.
  • Engie is distributing shielding and welfare boxes to vulnerable people on behalf of local councils.
  • ISS has delivered recipe books and food hampers to thousands of children who are eligible for free school meals.
  • BT has worked with Samsung, Google, MobileIron and TouchAway to provide video services for people in intensive care units, allowing them to communicate with their families.

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