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NHS pulls a million face masks from use after safety warning

The Independent logo The Independent 24/02/2021 Jon Sharman
text © Provided by The Independent

The NHS has been warned not to use or distribute a batch of high-grade face masks after government officials warned they may not meet safety standards.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it had “received urgent information” suggesting the items did not meet UK government specifications.

Hospital bosses and others including GPs have been told to stop using the FT-045A FFP3 masks, quarantine any remaining supplies and then track down any they might have sent on to other health providers through mutual aid schemes.

DHSC said it was pausing further distribution while a rapid review was carried out. Some 1.12 million masks are affected, the department said.

The Independent has also contacted the supplier and manufacturer named in the alert: Polyco Healthline, based in Lincolnshire, and Suzhou Fangtian Industries of Jiangsu in China.

DHSC’s warning document told health bosses: “Please be assured that we are working with regional teams and providers to fit-test staff to alternative models and provide of them with alternative masks in the quantities needed. We have a good supply of other FFP3 masks.”

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Rob Harwood, consultants committee chairman of the British Medical Association, told the BBC: “Healthcare staff working on the frontline do so facing the grave risk of contracting Covid, and deserve the best protection from this deadly virus.

“Many will be incredibly concerned to learn that some masks designed to offer enhanced protection, as well as gloves, may not meet standards, potentially placing them at greater risk.”

A spokesperson for the DHSC said: “We have received information indicating that the Fang Tian FFP3 masks may not meet the technical specifications required by our essential technical specifications. This model makes up less than 2 per cent of the FFP3 masks that are being used day-to-day.

“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.”

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