Action has been taken to bring an additional 1.5 million protective respirators into use from NHS Scotland’s central stockpile.
The tightly-fitting facemasks, which provide a high level of protection for staff working with coronavirus patients, were not previously used because they had recently passed their expiry date.
However, scientific evidence from stringent independent tests has shown the FFP respirators continue to be safe to use.
Both the Health and Safety Executive and Health Protection Scotland have reviewed the evidence and are satisfied the stocks are safe for use by NHS staff.
Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, pictured above left, 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.
“On the basis of Health Protection Scotland agreement, we have no issue with this stock of masks being distributed for use in the NHS at this time.”
Meanwhile, 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 individual 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.