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MEDICAL workers slammed the government for its “dereliction of duty” today after reports that huge national stockpiles of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been found to be faulty.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has issued safety warnings, notices for disposal, and distribution stoppages for 85 million masks and respirators, according to an investigation by Channel 4 News.
The masks and respirators were part of the government’s pandemic stockpile and have reportedly been distributed to hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries since March.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week issued guidance to the NHS that more than 67 million Cardinal surgical masks distributed by the company Medline should be “disposed of.”
The investigation also found that safety warnings were issued about 11.5m “sub-optimal” 3M-brand respirators, most of which had expired at the start of the year.
Channel 4 also found that distribution of Cardinal-branded respirators — of which there were 6.8m in the stockpile — was halted after staff experienced problems with fit-testing. It is unclear how many were distributed before the withdrawal.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) council, 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.”
He said that NHS England gave the BMA “explicit assurances” in March that products had “passed stringent tests.”
“We now need clear answers as to how these masks were distributed and allowed to be used.”
GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said that scant and poor-quality PPE has been “a consistent feature of this pandemic.”
She called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to address the scandal urgently and explain how “issues will be resolved ahead of any second peak.”
A DHSC spokeswoman said: “As soon as we are alerted to any potential issues we take immediate action to ensure the safety of our health and care staff, and work to resolve those issues as quickly as possible.”
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