Outdated face masks issued to NHS staff battling coronavirus

Outdated face masks that offer less protection against infection and were withdrawn six years ago are being issued to NHS staff battling coronavirus at one of Britain’s hardest-hit hospitals

  • EXCLUSIVE: Staff say masks were issued at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow 
  • There have been 90 COVID-19 deaths there, the highest in the East of England 
  • Known as EN14683 2005, the masks were issued in 2005 but withdrawn in 2014 
  • Hospital bosses refused to respond to concerns raised by their staff about the quality of their masks 

Out dated masks that offer less protection against infection are being issued to staff at a hospital with one of the highest rates of coronavirus deaths in the country, MailOnline can reveal.

Front line medical workers at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, where there have so far been 90 COVID-19 deaths, the highest in the East of England, say that their lives are being put at greater risk by being forced to wear the older surgical masks.

Known as EN14683 2005, they were issued in 2005 but withdrawn in 2014 and replaced with masks that are tested to a higher standard that offer more protection against droplets entering the body, the primary way in which coronavirus is spread.

Front line medical workers at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, where there have so far been 90 COVID-19 deaths, the highest in the East of England, say that their lives are being put at greater risk by being forced to wear the older surgical masks (pictured)

A nurse in the hospital’s A&E department, who did not wish to be named, told MailOnline: ‘Our department is the first port of call for many patients suffering from coronavirus and we are dealing with them wearing masks that are not fit for purpose.

‘We have been arguing with the management that we all need the 2014 surgical masks, which are more resistant to droplets in the environment, but they have simply been ignoring us. There is a stock of these better masks but not enough and this is putting all of us in great danger.’

According to sources, two members of the A&E staff have contracted coronavirus while last week, hospital midwife Lynsay Coventry, 54, died from it.

Across the country at least 20 NHS staff, including nurses, doctors and other workers have died from coronavirus, amid concerns that they are not being given adequate personal protection equipment.

A Princess Alexandra doctor added: ‘It’s stressful enough coming into work every day but the management are being callous for insisting that some of us have to wear these old masks. We need all the protection that we can get because our lives are at risk each time, we step foot into the hospital.’

An April 2014 report by the British Standards Institution, the UK’s national standards body, ordered the 2005 masks to be withdrawn and replaced with more up to date versions which are manufactured and tested to a higher level.

The 2014 edition mask was also approved the European Committee for Standardisation, which sets the standard for a range of products in countries across the continent.

Jim McLeish, Director of Quality Improvement at Princess Alexandra said: ‘The health and safety of our staff is paramount, and we are proud of their hard work and commitment to safe patient care. We receive daily deliveries of additional PPE, which is available across the hospital and used in-line with national guidance not cost’

Staff at Princess Alexandra have also fallen out with management after their request for FFP3 masks, which offer even greater protection but cost more than their surgical equivalents, was rejected. These are used in intensive care units at the hospital and others around the country.

An A&E nurse at Princess Alexandra added: ‘Our counterparts in Italy, Spain and other European nations are being given much better personal protective equipment than us. This is the only way to reduce the rate of infection amongst health professionals.

‘We asked for FFP3 masks, but these cost a lot and the management is a disgrace for putting profit before our lives. All we’re being given is out of date masks and told that we can either like it or lump it.’

Hospital bosses refused to respond to concerns raised by their staff about the quality of their masks or reveal any details about them.

Jim McLeish, Director of Quality Improvement at Princess Alexandra said: ‘Along with hospitals across the country, we continue to follow the national guidance issued by Public Health England and the Government. This includes guidance for the use of PPE (personal protection equipment) and the appropriate items for the care being provided.

Staff at Princess Alexandra have also fallen out with management after their request for FFP3 masks, which offer even greater protection but cost more than their surgical equivalents, was rejected (pictured a nurse at Manchester airport takes a swab at a Covid-19 Drive-Through testing station)

‘The health and safety of our staff is paramount, and we are proud of their hard work and commitment to safe patient care. We receive daily deliveries of additional PPE, which is available across the hospital and used in-line with national guidance not cost.’

Earlier this week it was reported that problems of health professionals getting adequate personal protection equipment are continuing, despite the government claiming that it has addressed the issue.

The Doctors’ Association UK claimed that 72% of doctors could still not get hold of an FFP3 mask when they needed one and that there was still a shortage of supply of other protective equipment.

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, the organisation’s president said: ‘Doctors are dying. Nurses are dying. We are devastated and can no longer stand by and watch as more dedicated colleagues lose their life.’

Meanwhile the UK’s coronavirus death toll today jumped by 953 to 8,931, according to figures released by all of the home nations. England recorded 866 new fatalities among patients in hospital, while the other 87 were confirmed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

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