A North East car dealership group has given over its main distribution centre for the NHS to use as a new manufacturing facility for vital PPE equipment.

Wingrove Motor Company was approached about whether it had any buildings which might be used for supporting Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s drive to increase the amount of protective equipment available to frontline staff tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

The family-owned firm offered its 14,400 square foot distribution centre and warehouse facility on the Nelson Industrial Estate in Cramlington, with the Wingrove team immediately setting to work on stripping out all the parts kept in the purpose-built facility and the racking on which they’re stored while observing strict social distancing protocols.

After completing the task within just 48 hours, a team of NHS engineers will be installing the machinery and equipment required to manufacture up to 7,500 protective gowns every week.

The gowns will be made available to staff in the region and, as production increases, stocks will be shared more widely across England.

Nicola Tiffen, partner in the commercial property team at Wingrove’s long-term advisers Hay & Kilner Law Firm, has put the legal documentation in place that is required to support the new arrangements, which are set to last for an initial three month period, but which could be extended if required.

Founded in 1925, Wingrove Motor Company operates the official North East franchises for global brands Citroën, Peugeot and DS, and employs 90 people across its Newcastle West Road, Silverlink and Ashington dealerships and service centres.

Managing director Josh Parker, who is part of the fifth generation of the founding family to work for the business, says: “We’re all in awe of the incredible work being done by NHS staff across the North East in the most difficult of conditions, and it’s a real honour and a privilege for us to be able to support them in this way.

“Our team has done a fantastic job in emptying out our distribution centre in such a short space of time and work is now ongoing to get the production line up and running as quickly as possible.

“We very much hope this project makes a real contribution to the health and well-being of people living in the communities that we’re proud to have been part of for almost a century.”

Sir James Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, adds: “We are receiving PPE through the national NHS supply chain, but we know there is a huge demand for supplies globally which is a challenge.

“This extra support is vital to keeping stocks flowing as we use thousands of pieces of equipment every day across the region.

“The new facility in Cramlington and the wider support we have from businesses means we can manage supply, from design to the front-line.”

Nicola Tiffen at Hay & Kilner Law Firm says: “This is an amazing effort by everyone involved to completely turn around such a large facility for a completely new purpose and we’re very pleased to have been part of getting such an important project in place.”