Hoods for Heroes: PPE Respirators for NHS Staff

by Natalie Watson in London, England, United Kingdom

Hoods for Heroes: PPE Respirators for NHS Staff

Total raised £54,426

raised so far



To provide powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) to NHS operating theatre staff to use during high risk aerosol generating procedures.

by Natalie Watson in London, England, United Kingdom

 New stretch target

If more money is raised and is forthcoming, this programme can be rolled out to other Hospitals identified to be in need by the National ENT UK tracheostomy working group. Every extra £10,000 raised can be used to support a further NHS trust and region.

NHS Healthcare professionals (HCPs) remain in desperate need for personal protective equipment (PPE), to protect them during the COVID-19 crisis. Your donation will directly fund state-of-the-art, reusable respirator PPE systems for our frontline NHS staff performing essential high-risk airway procedures.

About me and the reason for fundraising

I am an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgical doctor working at Lewisham Hospital, wife and mother of two young boys.

ENT surgeons like me, anaesthetists, ICU doctors, nurses and other essential operating theatre staff are putting their lives at risk during operations and unfortunately, as you may have read in the news, some have become very unwell and sadly died, due to their high level of viral exposure.

High risk airway procedures

The level of risk to HCPs from the COVID-19 virus depends on the way in which they are exposed. The procedures that have the highest risk are “aerosol generating” operations on the airway, like tracheostomies and other complex cancer operations involving the head and neck, as they release high levels of the virus into the working environment. 

What is a tracheostomy?

A tracheostomy is an operation that creates a hole in the patient’s neck to help them come off the ICU breathing machines (ventilators) and wake up from their medically-induced coma. This procedure enables a patient to start their physical and lung rehabilitation earlier and to communicate with their loved ones.

In addition, a tracheostomy prevents the potential long-term damage to the patient’s windpipe and vocal cords, caused  by the breathing tube remaining in place. Due to the severe impact of the virus on the lungs, around 1 in 5 patients with COVID-19 in ICU require a tracheostomy.

What do we need to buy? 

“Powered air purifying respirators” (PAPR) are considered by many to be the most comfortable and effective PPE mask systems for HCPs during these high-risk procedures. Unfortunately, few hospitals around the country have these specialised pieces of protective equipment. Those that do have PAPR systems, have often had to source them themselves or have done so through charitable donations.

What is a PAPR?

It is a type of PPE used to safeguard HCPs against contaminated air and are used during the most high-risk procedures. The PAPR systems consist of a hood with full-face mask and an air purifying system that takes contaminated room air and filters out hazardous substances including virus particles, delivering clean air to the user's face and mouth. These respirators can also be used for HCPs who have failed mask “fit” testing, i.e. where due to a poor fit, conventional face masks do not offer protection, enabling these HCPs can re-engage in front-line work.

How many PAPR systems do we need?

We believe that providing 10 PAPR systems to the NHS trusts around the UK that we are supporting will help the HCPs in these hospitals to more comfortably and safely perform their essential duties treating patients with COVID-19. PAPR systems will also directly allow hospitals to restart important cancer work on the upper airways, using reusable equipment that will not deplete front line PPE supplies. By targeting busy, non-Foundation NHS hospital trusts that cannot necessarily afford to buy this equipment, we hope to help better protect large numbers of our HCPs.


A single PAPR system costs in the region of £400-1000 and as we are aiming to provide 10 hooded respirators for each hospital that we are supporting, we need to raise ~£30,000 for the first three hospitals. My colleague at University Hospital Lewisham, Mr Tony Jacob, Consultant Head & Neck Surgeon and Chair of the National ENT UK Tracheostomy working group, supports this endeavour. This working group will oversee the selection and rollout of additional hospitals identified to be in need, so that with every extra £10,000 raised, a further NHS trust and region can be supported. 

Investing in a Legacy 

By donating to this fund, you are investing in a legacy facilitating the ongoing safe treatment of NHS patients. The start-up costs for this equipment may seem relatively high but the PAPR systems are easily disinfected and reusable, with only a change of a filter needed every 6 months (exact frequency dependent on manufacturer guidance).

This vital equipment will not just help us to safely treat critically unwell patients with COVID-19 but will enable NHS teams to re-start important and time critical Head & Neck cancer surgery, helping HCPs safely treat patients with life-threatening illnesses for years to come.


Forever grateful,

Natalie Watson 

MBBS, BSc (Hons), MA (Dist), MRCS (Eng), DOHNS, FHEA, FRCS (ORL-HNS)

ST8 Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust

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