Fringe Box



Some Ladies Are Proud To Be Scrubbers

Published on: 17 May, 2020
Updated on: 18 May, 2020

Scrubber at work

by Martin Giles

A claim from a proud husband that his wife belongs to a group of “scrubbers” is not the kind of message The Dragon gets every day, but such a boast helped us reveal this story of how Guildford ladies answered an urgent call to meet the needs of our NHS workers.

Reader Jules Cranwell alerted us to the efforts of his wife Eileen and others in producing scrubs, the loose-fitting garments worn by medical staff.

On April 2, the NHS revealed its shortage of scrubs. The next day, Mel Downing, an interior designer in Headley, Hants, who has family working for the NHS, set up SCRUBS4NHS.

Coleen Smart

She called for help from her friend Julie Knaggs, a saddler and trained cutter, and her soft-furnishing business contacts. One who saw her Facebook plea was Guildford resident Coleen Smart, who runs Honeybee Handmade Curtains and Blinds in her home workroom.

She got busy with her contacts to create a Guildford sub-group and, as Mel had nicknamed her group “Mel’s Scrubbers”, Coleen called hers “Guildford Scrubbers” and the humorous title stuck.

Coleen said: “There were about 80 active sewers overall and 35 of those were in the town subgroup from central Guildford, Merrow, the villages, including the Horsleys, and even Cobham. The other Facebook group members are either supporters or medical staff requesting scrubs.

“Because we have soft-furnishing businesses we wanted to run this group in a professional manner and we found it pretty easy to organise the logistics. We also wanted to ensure the scrubs we produced were good quality and usable.

“With funds raised on a Just Giving webpage, we bought new fabric on the roll, able to be washed at 60 degrees (that was crucial) from our trusted suppliers. Some of them were lovely and donated fabric that could be used for bags for used scrubs at the end of a shift.”

Carina Wells is currently furloughed from her job with Surrey University as wardrobe supervisor. She lives in central Guildford and Coleen says, “is one of my superstar Scrubbers”.

The scrubbers set up a production line of which Henry Ford would have been proud. “The fabric was sent directly to Julie, a trained pattern-cutter and known in the group as ‘Blazing Scissors’, and she stack-cut multiple sets,” Coleen said.

“These were sent to Mel in Headley who split the stacks into sets and the various hubs collected from her. We then split them into smaller sets and distributed them to the individual group members.

NHS staff in Guildford Scrubber scrubs.

“WhatsApp and a box on the doorstep proved very effective at getting information out and maintaining social distancing. The finished scrubs were passed back down the line in reverse for distribution to medical professionals. They went to RSCH, Frimley Park, doctor’s surgeries, MacMillan nurses, the list is very long.”

But now the enterprise is shutting down, having made an impressive 2,000 sets of scrubs for NHS, hospices and charities. They had raised more than £15,000 to buy materials and cover costs.

Coleen added: “We have closed the fund-raising page and stopped making scrubs because we need to get back to our day jobs but there are some funds left and we are looking at making face masks and distributing them through local food banks.”

Guildford Scrubbers at work.

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Responses to Some Ladies Are Proud To Be Scrubbers

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    May 18, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    With its historical definition, the use of the word “scrubbers” is an insult to these ladies.

    What do all the cleaning and other ladies who haven’t been permitted to get to work to do their jobs think, especially as they are now classed as essential workers and permitted to travel on our currently limited bus and train services?

    I can’t imagine that Boris and his lady have been doing the cleaning, etc, at No.10.

    Editor’s note: “Guildford Scrubbers” is the nickname the ladies gave themselves.

  2. Colin Checkley Reply

    May 18, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    Well done to all these ladies. I have been furloughed. So I am going to try to be a male scrubber.

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