Protective masks issued to frontline NHS medics despite having expiry dates that have been pushed back are still safe to use, the government has insisted.
The revelation that expiry dates have been relabelled on masks issued to NHS staff treating coronavirus patients was tweeted by Chris Hopson, the CEO of NHS Providers, an association of trusts that run hospitals.
The Department of Health has insisted the masks, which are classed as personal protective equipment (PPE) and are being used to try to keep medics safe from the virus, have been cleared for use by authorities.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Hopson listed concerns raised by trusts over their deliveries of masks.
9/13 Trust CEOs report that there are still some complications. For example, some report that they are getting deliveries of different brands of masks than they are used to and this requires each relevant clinician to do a time consuming new mask fit test.....— Chris Hopson (@ChrisCEOHopson) March 22, 2020
10/13 ...And some stock has been relabelled with a later use by / expiration date. We are assured by national leaders that this stock is definitely fit for use and has been robustly tested. But understandable why, without this explanation, PPE users might initially be concerned…— Chris Hopson (@ChrisCEOHopson) March 22, 2020
But a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said the masks were safe to use.
“The wellbeing of our frontline health and care staff is the absolute priority,” they said.
“All stock has been thoroughly tested and the Health and Safety Executive is content with our assessment the face masks are safe and should be used to help care for patients with coronavirus.”
Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice
There has been growing focus on the safety of doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients as news of professionals in Italy while treating people continues to emerge.
A senior NHS figure has insisted the distribution of PPE will improve in the coming days.
Jason Leitch, the national clinical director of healthcare quality and strategy, has said there is sufficient supply of equipment but delivering it to the hospitals had been challenging.
However he said the distribution of such items had been “challenging”, as the health service tries to get protective equipment out to more people than normal.
Speaking to the BBC, he said the coronavirus pandemic had come “on us really fast”.