Action has been taken to bring an additional 1.5 million protective respirators, also known as Filtering Face Pieces (FFPs) into use across Scotland.
The tightly-fitting face masks provide a high level of protection for staff working with coronavirus patients. They were not previously used because they had passed their expiry date. However, scientific evidence from stringent independent tests has shown the FFP respirators continue to be safe and effective.
Both the Health and Safety Executive and Health Protection Scotland reviewed examined them and are satisfied the stocks are safe for use by NHS staff.
Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, said:
“The safety of our health and social care staff is our upmost priority and it’s essential they have the right equipment to keep them safe as they go about their work.
“While there is currently an adequate supply of respirators, we know there is a significant pressure on global supplies of personal protective equipment due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
“We therefore decided to test this recently expired stock to determine whether it still provides an adequate level of safety and protection.
“Those tests have shown the equipment continues to meet those standards and therefore we will bring these masks into use to ensure we continue to have adequate stocks as the outbreak develops.”
Dr Miles Mack, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, said:
“Effective personal protective equipment is essential and we understand the difficulties around sourcing that have been encountered.
“We have no issue with these masks being distributed for use in the NHS at this time.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“We must do everything possible to protect our frontline NHS workers expose themselves to COVID-19 day in day out.
“It is difficult to prepare for a pandemic and it comes as a relief that these masks are still suitable for use.
“I again pay tribute to all those who work to help patients instead of from the safety of home like so many of us are able to do. On top of that, normal sickness waits for no one and they continue their tireless care for those who have other conditions. We really should all be thankful for our NHS workers.”
The 1.5 million FFP respirators offer healthcare workers the highest level of respiratory protection and are typically used in intensive care settings.
The Health and Safety Executive has advised users of the FFP respirators to visually inspect the equipment to check the integrity of foam seals, straps, valves and nose clips.
To support the fitting and testing of FFP respirators additional fit-test machines will be rolled out across NHS Scotland.