Cara Manfredi ‘hands over’ a face mask clip to her twin sister Sian (this is a fusion of two photos from different locations)

Reaseheath lecturers have been thanked for making a difference to the working lives of frontline NHS staff. Using their talents and expertise during coronavirus lockdown, some staff are busy outside their working hours producing attachments which make surgical facemasks more comfortable to wear.

Andy Gould, Curriculum Area Manager for Construction, has programmed his department’s 3D printer to make adjustable plastic clips which fit round the back of the head and have fixings for the elastic loops of the face mask. The design takes the pressure away from the back of the wearer’s ears while continuing to hold the mask securely.

The clips are made from plastic filaments which are passed through a heated nozzle and injected in 1ml layers onto a template. They are easy to disinfect and come in fluorescent colours and different designs.

Hundreds of the clips have been distributed across Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire by Reaseheath staff who have family members or friends who are health professionals. They are proving so popular that there is a current waiting list for over 300 and the printer is operating non stop during the day and evening – and even overnight for one weekend, when Andy set his alarm every hour for 48 hours to reset the machine. Staff at Leighton Hospital and the West Midlands Ambulance Service patient transport team in Crewe are among those who have benefitted.

Cara Manfredi, who is Personal Assistant to our Principal and other senior managers, delivered clips to both her twin sister, a nurse on a covid positive ward at Leighton Hospital, and her partner, an ambulance care assistant.

She said: “The clips make a big difference to the comfort of the frontline staff and they are so grateful for our contribution.”

Andy, who is being supported by other staff members to keep the production line running, confirmed: “We’ve been inundated with requests and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback. As long as the NHS staff want the clips, we’ll keep manufacturing them. “

The 3D printer is used to demonstrate design work at recruitment events and will play a central role in our new Level 3 Extended Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment, which launches this September.

Other staff have been using their craft skills to make ear savers, which perform a similar function but are for single patient use.

Quality and Standards coach Emily Jewell has been knitting 10cm long strips which have buttons sewn at each end to provide attachments for the face mask loops. Since lockdown she has made over 60, the majority of which have gone to nurses in her local area of Shavington in answer to Facebook appeals.

One friend, who is a midwife at Telford Hospital messaged: “I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ for the ear pieces. I took them to work last night and they went down very well! They helped out so much and made the masks a lot comfier”.

Emily, who has also made scrub bags out of reused duvets and pillow cases said: “I understand the importance of the NHS after seeing the support given to our young people by NHS staff so I was delighted to help and do something positive in these challenging times.

“Making the ear pieces gave me something to do over Easter which had a purpose. I’ll be making more, particularly as my 10 year-old daughter wants to help and has now learnt to sew on buttons.”

Sally Beresford, our Level 2 Course Manager in Agriculture, has also been busy making headbands with button attachments and scrub bags from reused bed linen in answer to a request from her daughter-in-law, a nurse with North Staffordshire NHS Trust. Sally said: “They’ve been really well received and it’s nice to feel you’ve made a difference, however small.”

Watch our 3D printer at work:

See our students and staff thank NHS staff with a Mexican wave: