CASE STUDY: A franchise model for community sewing for healthcare

A new social enterprise is aiming to commercialise the regional scrubs movement developed during the Covid-19 crisis by creating a franchise model for the production of scrubs and workwear for local healthcare teams.

Stitch aims to bring new skills and local employment opportunities, as well as building local supply chains across the country.

Stitch has been led by Sital Punja, the founder of a small high-end garment manufacturer called Threads London, which works with designer womenswear brands, based on her experience of working with For The Love of Scrubs movement in Hilllingdon.

In April 2020, her husband contracted Covid-19 and received oxygen treatment at Hillingdon Hospital where he thankfully recovered. While in lockdown Sital joined her local For The Love of Scrubs movement – Hillingdon Working Group (FTLOS – HWG) and quickly realised that while there was much goodwill and passion for the project, the process needed to be commercialised and professionalised. Her local group attracted around 400 volunteers and raised significant donations for fabric.

Sital made sure the correct fabric was sourced and cut in bulk, then began redrafting the patterns and sizing. She set up logistics and procurement in just seven days.

“I found that the initial samples were not fit for purpose, the sizing and make wasn’t right, and the wrong fabrics were being used,” she said. “I created a pattern that would fit well with vents to make them comfortable. We have had fantastic feedback from front-line staff who said the scrubs are much better quality and fit than their usual sets.”

Sital is now leading Stitch to create local employment to provide workwear for local healthcare teams. She is working with a team of medics and nurses to develop the products and is in discussions with a number of hospitals for local procurement.

The product range will include scrubs that meet the needs of individual healthcare teams, with bespoke colour choices and localised design additions; gowns; and washable reusable face coverings.

Stitch is in discussions with Brunel University, Uxbridge College and UKFT for skills and training; Hillingdon Council for premises and funding; Job Centre and GMB Union for employment; and Hillingdon Hospital, Royal Brompton Hospital (Harefield), Portland Hospital and Hillingdon Care in the Community for procurement.

Sital said: “This situation is an amazing opportunity to create new pathways to careers and develop skills while building local supply chains across the country and rebuilding UK manufacturing.”

The social enterprise is now crowdfunding to secure premises and procure equipment.

Source: UKFT