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COVID-19: More than one million masks issued to healthcare workers ‘may not meet safety standards’

Written by on 24 February 2021

More than one million masks issued to NHS workers may not meet safety standards, it has been revealed.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has asked hospital staff to stop using a specific brand of FFP3 masks – a respirator mask used by healthcare professionals to guard against coronavirus – as it may not meet its essential technical specification.

The department said around 1.2 million of these high-grade masks had been distributed, which makes up around 4% of stock held in frontline stores and about 1.7% of masks that are used day-to-day.

The four stages of England's lockdown lifting Image: The four stages of England’s lockdown lifting

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said the incident was “yet another example of ministers buying duff PPE that is inadequate for protecting our hardworking NHS staff”.

In an alert published on the Central Alerting System (Cas) on Thursday, the DHSC asked hospital staff to stop using the masks branded Fang Tian and supplied by Polyco Healthline, a hygiene product manufacturer.

It also urged healthcare providers to immediately quarantine any stock of the product.

“Following information received from the NHS, we are also seeking to confirm the origin of manufacture,” it said.

FFP3 masks have been recommended as personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and nurses who are treating people with COVID-19.

Mr Ashworth added: “Ministers should apologise and ensure every penny for every piece of unusable PPE is recovered.”

Jonathan Ashworth Image: Jonathan Ashworth has called on minsters to apologise

A DHSC spokesperson said: “The safety of frontline staff and patients is our absolute priority and as a precaution we have issued advice to health and care providers to check to see if their stock includes this product, and to stop using these masks pending further investigation.

“We have a resilient supply of FFP3 masks to ensure that health and social care workers have access to the PPE they need.”

It comes as the British Medical Association called on the government to provide enhanced PPE for frontline workers following the surge of more infectious variants of COVID-19.

Polyco Healthline has been approached for comment.