Prisons to make vital medical scrubs for the NHS as part of Manchester Metropolitan University-led appeal

06 May 2020

Production has started on thousands of medical scrubs using design template from Manchester Fashion Institute



Prisons will mass manufacture vital medical garments for the NHS following a Manchester Metropolitan University-led campaign to support healthcare workers treating Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.    

The Manchester Fashion Institute (MFI) at Manchester Metropolitan University contacted Public Sector Prison Industries (PSPI) directly after the call for help came in from a regional North West NHS trust experiencing shortages of some items of medical clothing.

As a direct result of the intervention of MFI, several workshops run by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) have started production of thousands of medical scrubs, based on an open source digital design template, built and made freely available to download by the MFI Technical Team.

Operating within the Education, Employment and Industries Group (EEIG), which provide education and work into prisons, Public Sector Prison Industries (PSPI) is a department which manufactures and supplies a range of goods whilst providing employment and purposeful activity for prisons, enabling on the job training and personal development in preparation for release.

Having previously worked with the textile teams from PSPI, Barbara Shepherd, Head of Business Development at MFI, identified that this was the best bulk manufacturing option to produce medical garments in the UK.

“We are pleased this partnership enables us to contribute to the national effort in our response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

These will be delivered to NHS hospitals to kit out the doctors and nurses tackling the coronavirus pandemic on the frontline.

Joining forces with Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Growth Company, local manufacturers were asked to come forward to produce medical garments based on these specifications.  

Professor Liz Barnes, Head of MFI, said: “Our relationship and the work we have done with Public Sector Prison Industries has always been a hugely positive collaboration and we are pleased this partnership enables us to contribute to the national effort in our response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Ian Bickers, Head of EEIG said: “NHS staff are working incredibly hard to keep us all safe, and I am delighted that Jason Swettenham and his Industries Team are able to help them by manufacturing some of the vital equipment they need.

“Thanks to the support of Manchester Metropolitan University and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, thousands of pairs of scrubs and scrub bags are already in production in prisons, and together we will continue to explore how we can make different items of equipment to support the NHS in their critical work.”

Dr Pete Turkington, Chief Officer and Medical Director at Salford Royal, part of the NCA Group, said: “The supply and availability of equipment and clothing to support our frontline staff is so important as we continue to use and work with national and local suppliers. We are in unprecedented times. The way we respond to this pandemic will rely largely on how all sectors and all areas of healthcare and business work together to develop innovative ways of working.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the University’s Manchester Fashion Institute and the collaboration with Public Sector Prison Industries has enabled us to progress with producing the garments for use across our hospitals and other NHS trusts.”



After being sent samples of existing medical garments, the Fashion Institute’s Garment Technical Services Team simplified the design to allow scrubs and gowns to be produced at scale quickly by suitable manufacturers. The number of garment components was reduced, and the team has used colour-contrast stitching for different sizes, enabling medical staff to easily find appropriate clothing on shift.

The Growth Company has coordinated several manufacturers to work on the sample garments as part of a wider effort to source PPE for public-sector frontline services. The Greater Manchester PPE taskforce includes MIDAS (Greater Manchester’s inward investment agency), GC Business Growth Hub, Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership, and GMCA (including Police, Fire and Transport for Greater Manchester). Together with Manchester Metropolitan, this partnership is now inviting direct enquiries from manufacturers across the UK to be directed to its dedicated team of manufacturing experts based at GC Business Growth Hub.

Geoff Crossley, Senior Manufacturing Advisor at GC Business Growth Hub, said: “Enlisting the support and the safe working practices of Public Sector Prison Industries is a positive development in this coordinated effort to ensure steady supplies of medical garments for our frontline NHS workers. The Growth Company is working with various stakeholders across Greater Manchester to encourage manufacturers to back this vital initiative. If you’re in a position to help with the manufacture of PPE or the production of medical equipment, we encourage you to contact our dedicated team at GC Business Growth Hub for more information.” 

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the University’s Manchester Fashion Institute and the collaboration with Public Sector Prison Industries has enabled us to progress with producing the garments for use across our hospitals and other NHS trusts.”

Work is still ongoing to enable other manufacturers to produce garments based on the MFI technical packs. They are freely available to download via the Growth Company website.

To speak to GC Business Growth Hub about supporting this important initiative, please contact Geoff Crossley on 07734 776 558 or email Geoff.Crossley@growthco.uk or Barbara Shepherd on b.shepherd@mmu.ac.uk.

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