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Faulty face masks revealed by Pulse is ‘national scandal’, says BMA

The BMA has hit out at the Government over its failure to supply GP practices with safe PPE, after Pulse revealed masks were supplied which ‘posed a risk to staff’.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul branded the error – which saw practices supplied with faulty out-of-date masks – ‘nothing short of a national scandal’.

As revealed by Pulse on Tuesday, a DHSC alert told practices to dispose of the Type IIR face masks from Cardinal Health which could potentially harm the user if the foam strip on the mask flakes and enters the mouth or airways.

Pulse understands some practices used hundreds of faulty masks and also supplied them to patients, following Government assurances that they were safe to use. But the MHRA led re-testing of the masks after issues were flagged in May.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘These reports, if true, are nothing short of a national scandal. If doctors and health and care workers have been supplied with, and worn, faulty, re-dated masks, this is clearly a dereliction of duty to ensure the safety of NHS staff and patients. Suggestions that these faults were known about in May, and yet action is only now being taken, are alarming.

‘Wearing substandard PPE places doctors at risk of becoming infected and also spreading the illness to patients. We know that doctors and healthcare staff have become infected and died from this virus and therefore nothing short of 100% fit for purpose PPE should have been supplied from the outset.’

The news comes after Pulse had first revealed back in March that practices were being supplied with out-of-date masks, but at the time the DHSC said they had been put through ‘stringent tests’ to find their shelf life could be extended as they were ‘safe to use’.

However, a sample of seven batches of masks was put through ‘additional testing’ by the manufacturer this month after ‘potential issues’ were raised with NHS Supply Chain in May.

Dr Nagpaul continued: ‘Given these explicit assurances, we now need clear answers as to how these masks were distributed and allowed to be used. Crucially, we need a cast iron guarantee that no faulty or out of date PPE is currently on the front line or in community care.

‘Every single item of faulty PPE should now be withdrawn from stocks and replaced with sufficient equipment that is in-date – not re-dated – and with rigorous quality control measures to ensure these properly protect health and care staff.’

Cardinal Health has told Pulse it divested the business in 2010 and was not responsible for the re-dating of the masks.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘The safety of health, care and all frontline staff is our top priority.

‘We were made aware of a defect with some Cardinal Health Type IIR surgical masks. Last week we issued advice to health and care providers to check if their stock included these masks and to dispose of them.

‘The issue is now resolved.’

  • Identify, stop using and immediately quarantine all lots relating to BWM028 of the Cardinal Type IIR masks.
  • All stock should be disposed of locally.
  • If you have a shortage of Type IIR masks, please notify NSDR on 0800 915 9964 who will arrange an emergency delivery if required.
  • For all general enquiries for the PPE Dedicated Channel, call Customer Services on 0800 876 6802.

Source: PPE Dedicated Supply Channel alert