This image was entered into Manchester Met’s Images of Research competition in 2021. It was taken in April 2021 at the height of the pandemic.

The small photographs along the top of the shot show the technical services team from Manchester Fashion Institute (MFI) alongside an NHS nurse and two academics from MFI and the Dept. of Nursing at Manchester Met. All of this team worked alongside the NHS team at Wythenshawe hospital to redesign the current plastic PPE apron.

Our research work aimed to evaluate the perceived acceptability of a re-designed sustainable PPE protective apron in an acute healthcare setting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We were approached by Prof Brendan McGrath who is in the main photograph to investigate and offer research-based answers to the redesign of the plastic PPE outer apron to meet the needs of his teams at the height of the pandemic.

Redesign options and prototypes were explored, and a sustainable raw material was sourced to produce a new base material for the existing apron to be manufactured locally in Manchester.

Surveys were carried out to capture clinical staff views on the garment suitability and on the sense of psychological safety associated with the re-designed apron compared to its predecessor.

This work was completed virtually in a 12-week timeframe as a direct result of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The image is just one of a number of images that we took to track the development of our research.

My involvement in the project came as a direct result of the work that I had done with the technical team at MFI in response to the lack of scrubs at the height of the Pandemic.

The team at MFI examined the structure of the garment pattern-pieces, the components needed, and the process of construction and key measurements were taken to establish sizing and grading for UK production.

This research led to the development of a new technical manufacturing specification pack to allow the redesigned PPE garments to be produced more quickly than had previously been achievable, and at scale, by multiple UK-based manufacturers and individuals in their own homes.

As I write this blog we are working on the next stage of our latest PPE development. We have now an established regional team working on further design and development of PPE and although we still haven’t met each other in person yet, we have become great friends. The pandemic has brought some positive things for our industry sector. Being able “to make” became a local/national priority and with the team and expertise that we have at MFI we were able to meet this challenge quickly and efficiently which was a national necessity.

Barbara and the research team were finalists in the 2021 Images of Research competition, sharing their work more widely through their choice of image and the opportunity to present at our live final. Images of Research 2022 is now open for submissions. You can find out more on our webpage:, including viewing all of last year’s images and information about submitting yours for the 2022 competition!

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