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If anyone would have said to you last October that this time in 2020 you would be wearing masks to go shopping and you would have to keep 2 metres away from everyone on the street because of a deadly contagious virus, you’d of laughed at the craziness of the comment. BUT, here we are…… and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon, so I suppose we better get used to the new normal.  I can’t remember the last time I shook somebodies hand in a meeting or entered a shop without applying a liquid that finds every single little cut on my hands.

Getting used to the new normal also means ensuring that people who work in places that involve meeting and greeting or dealing with high volumes of people throughout the day are protected.  So companies have gone about this in their own way by erecting screens or positioning barriers to protect their teams.  Using off the shelf systems to do this you have probably seen a variety of systems balancing on counters, hanging from ceilings, screwed to the wall, held in place using double sided tape or in one case that I witnessed in a petrol convenience store……… Blu Tack!!

Being in business for 50 years we are lucky to have developed great working relationships with many companies who like to do things right!  This is perfect for us because so do we!  For companies like Ben’s Cookies an off the shelf perspex screen just won’t cut it!  Just like infection control at South Warwickshire NHS Trust wouldn’t accept a screen anchored down to the desk with assorted novels about murder and mystery.  (Yes, I’ve seen that too!)  So it wasn’t long before the questions started being asked about social distancing measures……


For me, the best type of phone call to receive is the enquiry.  Call me a nerd but I can get excited at the prospect of potentially creating something new and different for someone and being able to confidently tell someone “YES, we can do that”.  So when The Property, Estates & Facilities Manager from SWFT (South Warwickshire Foundation Trust) Clinical Services called and spoke the words, “we need something bespoke” I was on board.  He explained that they needed to come up with a solution to ensure a safe distance was being kept between visitors to Stratford Hospital and the staff on the various receptions around the building, as we had manufactured and installed all the fitted furniture there in 2017 they thought it would be best if we could develop a solution to a problem that is facing many people at the moment.

The Rigby Unit at Stratford Hospital. Completed May 2017.

The requirements were as follows:

  • Ensure that a safe distance is maintained.
  • Match the colour and style to the existing.
  • DDA to be included.
  • Units must be secure but removable so that if and when we go back to normal, they can operate as before.
  • Existing counters cannot be fixed to.
  • To be cost effective because they hopefully won’t be permanent.

A few things to comply to, but not impossible, not at all.  If anything I was relieved to hear that we couldn’t fix to the counter.  I took my site measurements and talked through my initial ideas which were met with approval.  I went away and produced a design with a price and submitting them for comment and or approval.

I designed the units to match in colour and style, but simplified to make them cost effective, the central section is set back for wheelchair users and the whole unit is designed to come apart for delivery to the first and second floors. We would also have to manoeuvre the third through the hospital corridors to the MRI waiting room.  The shape and design of the existing counters opened up a solution to secure them in place without being screwed or glued, the weight of the units would hold them down but the recess in the decorative panels allowed for the new units to slot inside preventing any movement once we had positioned them.

The design was approved and a total of 3 were ordered. Owen was the man for the job and he set about cutting up the 30 mm thick laminated MDF sheets and edging them.  He then set out the sections and assembled them using our Lamello Zeta P2 jointing tool to cut a slot to take the Clamex fitting which, using an Allen key can be locked and released when fixing components together, Ideal for delivering and assembling large and heavy items on site, as these were being delivered and installed on the first and second floor of the building we needed it to be light work on site.


When delivering items we like to remain as incognito as possible, however this doesn’t mean turning up unannounced and doing what we need to do without permission, but it does mean informing the client of our proposed install date and issuing the relevant documentation which I wrote about in a previous post.  (If you didn’t catch that wonderful bit of info you can read up on it here .)  Once we are granted permission to carry out the works we then quietly and cleanly go about our install.  Thankfully we were allowed to use the lifts which were big enough to take our components which we wheeled into place and assembled them.  Each unit took about 15 minutes to assemble and we left without leaving a fleck of dust.


One of the three units in position, providing the required distance without looking out of place.

The trust were very happy to receive exactly what they wanted knowing that when they are no longer needed there will be no repairs required to the counters.


We are currently working closely with Ben’s Cookies and Dogs Trust to develop social distancing and protective measures for existing stores and centres, we are also working on temporary systems for new Dogs Trust rehoming centres in Darlington and Cardiff. I’m sure you will be reading about these in the weeks and months to come.

Please bare us in mind if you want something different to your off the shelf perspex screen or barrier and we would be more than happy to work with you to meet your requirements.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read my ramblings about a little bit of what we do.  Please feel free to get in touch with any feedback or topics you would like to know more about:


Tags: Healthcare Furniture, JFW Process, Reception Counters, Reception Furniture, Staff Bases, Uncategorized, Ward and Clinic Furniture