As if working in an intensive care ward in one of London’s busiest hospitals during the COVID-19 crisis wasn’t challenging enough, Dr Dominic Pimenta led the design and delivery of an innovative face shield for frontline NHS staff. He also set up a new charity called HEROES, which has already produced 100,000 face shields for frontline workers in the health service, as well as providing financial assistance, counselling and over 500,000 items of food and skin products.
Originally a cardiologist and frontline clinician, Dr Pimenta realised the UK was running out of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) even prior to the pandemic. He took it upon himself to raise awareness of the shortage on news programmes, and in between his hospital shifts and launching the charity he also helped to create a sustainable, multi-use face shield for health workers – a much-needed commodity as the pandemic significantly worsened across the country.
Dr Pimenta leveraged social media to assemble and coordinate a team of product designers, engineers and manufacturers to design the sustainable and sturdy shield. He led daily design meetings and coordinated in-hospital tests, iteratively improving the PPE based on insights from his co-workers. Working on mass production with a community of maker businesses, Makerversity, and with the National Equipment Appeal Database on distribution, the design evolved into a tangible product through his dedication and guidance.
In the last week of May 2020, the ‘HEROES Face Shield’ achieved a CE-mark, and now the HEROES charity has successfully produced 100,000 face shields for hospitals and care homes across the UK.
HEROES was set up within days of the initial lockdown beginning and since then the charity has raised over £1 million to help hundreds of thousands of NHS frontline staff who have needed access to financial assistance and grants, counselling and wellbeing services, childcare support, sustainable PPE and more.
Concerned about the environment, the charity has also been involved in the creation and distribution of reusable gowns, sustainable scrubs and an upcycled respirator mask. Dr Pimenta’s efforts during such a demanding time for the healthcare system are providing both rapid and long-term support to those most in need. Through his formidable fundraising and organising efforts, HEROES will continue to support NHS staff throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Dr Dominic Pimenta says: “In the past few months I have watched SHIELD, the PPE focused conglomeration and sister-organisation to HEROES, grow from an idea, to a simple sketch into a CE-marked piece of PPE, from WhatsApp messages and Zoom calls to a product now in hospitals protecting NHS staff.”
According to Dr Ben Britton, Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London, “Dr Pimenta really embraced the challenge of creating PPE that was both functional and sustainable. I am particularly impressed by his ability to balance establishing and managing the HEROES charity with his frontline role in the coronavirus response, the design and delivery of a certified face shield and looking after his family. Throughout the process, he has worked to ensure the printers and manufacturers have access to the correct materials and components – which has become increasingly difficult as the pandemic progressed. The idea for the face shield, the network building, the R&D and ultimately the efforts to achieve professional certification were entirely led by Dr Pimenta. This has been a complicated task as the materials required for the visor have to be affordable, washable and durable, as well as conforming to changing government guidelines.”
HEROES was founded by frontline NHS workers for NHS workers. Powered by a network of generous corporations, service providers, and individuals devoted to making support easy to find and easy to provide, the charity is working around the clock to build a permanent platform that will link donors, providers and our NHS staff to one another in this urgent time of need, and beyond. To find out more visit www.helpthemhelpus.co.uk.