A BLACKBURN community clothing factory rescued by TV sewing expert Patrick Grant has switched to making scrubs for NHS workers.

Cookson and Clegg in Lions Drive on the Shadsworth Business Park hopes to be making 1,000 sets of specialist tunic tops and trousers for doctors, nurses and other hospital workers a week.

Great British Sewing Bee judge Mr Grant has recruited another East Lancashire textile firm - Mitchell Interflex of Foulridge - to help.

All 34 Cookson and Clegg staff have switched from their normal Community Clothing work to making the crucial scrubs at machines set four metres apart to preserve social distancing.

They are working overtime to meet the NHS orders.

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s growth boss, said: “This is brilliant.”

The first sets of specialist medical overalls came off the production line at the weekend for supply to hospitals this week.

Mr Grant, who is staying in Rawtenstall to oversee the NHS order and who rescued the firm from closure in autumn 2016, said: “The first NHS scrubs are coming off the line using specialist fabric from Pincroft in Chorley, another Community Clothing factory.

“We are pleased to be able to support the NHS. The demand for scrubs is huge as most are manufactured in South Asian countries now under lockdown. All production has been switched to making scrubs. We hope to be able to produce around 1,000 a week for doctors, nurses and auxiliary staff in our hospitals.

“I am incredibly proud of all of the staff involved in what has been a monumental effort.

“Technical specifications arrived at 10am Tuesday, patterns were cut and samples were made by that night. They were approved by NHS supplier Alsico in Preston on Wednesday. Bulk fabric was forklifted off the lorry at 3pm Wednesday, and went straight into the cutting room.

“The first 700 pairs went onto the sewing line at 2pm on Thursday and the first pieces reached the end of the line by 4pm on Friday.

“Three days for a process that would normally take about three months, and all achieved under incredibly strict new working practices at a time of great personal anxiety to many.

“This crisis is terrible, but if any good can come of it perhaps it might be that it brings home to us that people who know how to make things are of vital importance.”

Cllr Riley said: “This switch is everything that one would expect from a company whose entire ethos is improving the world. Once again Community Clothing is really living up to its name.”