How Homerton became a key distribution site for PPE

The Principal with some of the PPE supplies

As the University closed down its usual functions in mid-March, and hospitals prepared for a potential influx of Covid patients, Homerton swapped students for scrubs, becoming the site of an impressive PPE distribution point.

While our proximity to Addenbrooke’s Hospital meant that we were ideally placed to offer support, it wasn’t initially clear what form this might take.

“At first, it was thought that Addenbrooke’s might be overwhelmed, so we offered to provide accommodation to any healthcare professionals who might need to be near to the hospital,” explains the Principal, Professor Geoff Ward. “In the event that wasn’t necessary, but instead we were able to offer space to store personal protective equipment (PPE) for use at the hospital and in other settings.”

Cambridge University departments, including the School of Biological Sciences, the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, and the departments of Zoology, Pharmacology and Chemistry donated face masks, visors, gowns, goggles, antibacterial wipes and hazmat suits. Donations also flooded in from around the world through alumni connections and University partners, allowing a central logistics hub to be formed at Homerton.

The auditorium in the Mary Allan Building, used in normal times for lectures and concerts, became a warehouse, packed with towers of boxes. Medical grade equipment was supplied to the hospital, while PPE was also issued via the Homerton site to care homes, GP practices and other healthcare sites.

“From the start, and throughout, Homerton have been fantastic,” says the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations, Professor Andy Neely. “The speed with which the facility was set up was in no small part due to Homerton’s generous offer to provide space for the PPE donations. This also enabled Addenbrooke’s to store additional PPE that they had purchased when their storage facility was at capacity. This was invaluable to the hospital, and I know they are greatly appreciative of the College in providing this facility.”