Innovative GPs use 3D printers to produce masks amid PPE shortage

A Surrey GP keen to boost COVID-19 protection for primary care staff without denying hospitals key equipment has come up with a novel solution - using 3D printers to produce his own masks.

3D printer (Photo: EThamPhoto/Getty Images)
3D printer (Photo: EThamPhoto/Getty Images)

Surrey Heartlands GP Dr Dave Triska - a former British Army medical officer - told GPonline many GPs wanted eye protection in addition to the surgical masks, aprons and gloves provided to practices across the country.

'I was keen to help make people feel protected,' he said. 'But I wanted to do this without depleting hospital stocks. Some commercial suppliers are out of stock anyway - and I would rather ICU doctors had supplies that are available. So I looked around for a community solution.'

Dr Triska put out a call for help on a local Facebook group and within 24 hours had received offers of support from companies.

Two specialist cycling companies - Aerocoach and 3T - along with staff from the Henry Hoover company are now printing headbands that can be attached to acetate sheets to create protective face visors.

The headband are based on a design made available on an open source basis by a Czech medical company.

And remarkably, Dr Triska explained, none of the firms supporting the production of masks had asked for any payment - so there has been no cost involved for general practice. 'I think they are just desperate to do stuff to help the NHS. It's been brilliant.'

More than 1,000 pieces of kit have now been produced through the initiative to support the locality within which Dr Triska works - GPs from other parts of the country have been in touch, and items could be produced for distribution to other regions.

PPE confusion

Dr Triska said: 'There has been a lot of confusion about what level of personal protective equipment (PPE) is suitable for primary care. A lot of GPs have felt they wanted something a bit extra.'

He said that although COVID-19 transmission was likely to occur 'mainly through the nasal and oral cavities', eye protection was also important because 'you don't want someone dropleting your face if they are infected'.

'I used to be in the army - and I understood that my body armour would stop a round,' Dr Triska explained, 'but I knew I would also like to be inside an armoured vehicle for additional protection.'

A GPonline survey revealed today that inadequate PPE supplies had left some GPs feeling abandoned. The Surrey GP said PPE was 'critical' to the work being carried out in general practice.

In the ongoing crisis situation he felt some shortages would be unavoidable. Dr Triska paid tribute to the remarkable response from GPs and practice teams during the coronavirus outbreak.

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