Thousands of pounds have been raised to support a South Devon College project to produce urgently needed protective face shields for NHS workers at Torbay Hospital.

Face shields made at South Devon College for use by staff at Torbay HospitalFace shields made at South Devon College for use by staff at Torbay Hospital

The college, working with Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, developed a prototype shield to be worn by staff when transferring patients from the emergency department to a ward as they will be taken through non-COVID areas.

The college team had initially produced 60 of the face shields, using state-of-the-art fused filament fabrication 3D printers to produce the headbands.

But it was a Facebook appeal by Ben Bryant, senior lecturer at South Devon College hi-tech and digital, who is studying a PhD at Plymouth University, for donations from family and friends which meant the project snowballed.

Ben expected the appeal to generate a few hundred pounds but within two days it had reached £6,000.

Face masks being made at South Devon CollegeFace masks being made at South Devon College

The flood of cash means the college will now be able to provide 1,000 of the shields.

He said: “Wow, what an amazing 48 hours, myself and the guys have truly been overwhelmed by all of the gratitude and generosity of you all.

“When I started this, I was only expecting to raise between £100 to £200 to support the material fund of creating the face shield for Torbay Hospital. I never ever expected to receive close to £6,000.

“The task ahead for myself and the guys is massive, so we’ve decided as a team, to focus on the task ahead. We will not be asking for any more donations so that we can ramp up the production to create the shields needed for the front line workers in the quickest time possible.

“Your generous funds have allowed us to source material in bulk making the cost per mask cheaper meaning more shields can be donated.”

The college’s finance team helped Ben buy materials and offers of help were received from the local business community, donating physical resources, time and money.

As well as supplying the team at Torbay Hospital, the college has been asked to provide equipment to GP practices.

There are also plans to support local care homes, offering protection to those looking after some of the most vulnerable within the community.

The team plans to share design files along with their experiences of effective production materials and processes to allow other organisations across the UK with the appropriate technology to support the production of the essential protective equipment more widely.

Steve Caunter, assistant principal and lead for hi-tech and digital, said: “I am so immensely proud of the work Ben and the team continue to do and the fantastic things they have achieved.I’d also like to thank the local businesses that have joined with us to support our NHS through this unprecedented challenge.”

Laurence Frewin, college principal. said: “We’re proud that our dedicated staff have been innovative and able to step up so quickly to support the call for help from our wonderful NHS at this time of national emergency. They are really inspiring. It was never expected that the new centre would ever need to play an essential role such as this but the fact that the equipment is now being used for such an important task is incredible.”

Adel Jones, director of transformation and partnerships at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s fantastic to have this level of innovation available locally. We cannot thank South Devon College enough for providing us with such fantastic support. Within two days of seeking support, the team had produced a prototype which we could show our clinical teams, and we’re now in a position where we can start producing these at a greater volume.”

NHS staff had previously collected 112 goggles, 187 safety glasses, three visors, four respirators, nine boxes of disposable face masks, and 19 boxes of disposable gloves from the college’s Paignton campus.