Jackie Baillie, the MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh, claims respirators being used for Covid patients are past their sell by date.
By Bill Heaney
Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has raised serious concerns over the SNP government’s new PPE action plan, as a response to a parliamentary question showed that over 1.7 million FFP3 respirators had their expiry dates extended by several years.
Please read that first paragraph again: over 1.7 million FFP3 respirators had their expiry dates extended by several years.
What this means is that if you, or someone close to you, has the misfortune to contract Covid-19 then the chances are that you will be treated on an out of date respiratory machine, which could be as much as ten years past its sell by date.
Ms Baillie revealed: “The masks, manufactured by 3M, had an expiry date of 2016 changed to 2021, and over 106,000 FFP3 respirators made by Alpha Solway had expiry dates changed from 2012 to 2021. A total of 1,878,965 masks have had their shelf life extended.”
Earlier this week, the Scottish Government published its PPE Action plan, committing to providing key workers with access to PPE to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic through this winter and beyond.
The Action Plan covers health, social care and other essential public services where people need to wear masks, gloves, eye protection and/or gowns to combat the virus, along with plans for a viable supply chain.
The MSP has called out this unacceptable alteration of PPE dates and asked the Scottish Government to stop short changing frontline workers.
She said: “Our brave frontline staff should be given a full supply of up to date protective clothing. They deserve nothing more.”
Ms Baillie’s revelation came on the day it was revealed by The Democrat that Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman had asked for the Freedom of Information service to be shut down.
She wants the public kept in the dark about the actuality of what is happening in the NHS in Scotland and for them to rely on the daily briefing from her Cabinet colleagues, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy John Swinney.
Jackie Baillie MSP said: “Our cherished NHS frontline workers are working in unimaginable circumstances to keep the most vulnerable people in our community safe. The least we can do for them is to ensure that they have all the support and protection need to do their jobs safely.
“These workers deserve far more than to be short changed by the Scottish Government and palmed off with shoddy, out of date equipment.
“The Scottish Government must work with health boards to urgently recall any unsuitable PPE and ensure that NHS staff have everything they need and deserve as they continue to fight this awful virus.”
Meanwhile, a Scottish Parliament report from the Health and Sport Committee has raised concerns around the backlog of NHS operations due to COVID-19, and has called for action from the Scottish government.
Figures suggest just under 60,000 planned operations took place in Scottish hospitals from March to August of this year, compared to 168,000 over the same period in 2019.
The Committee has said detail must be provided in regard to the backlog of NHS work caused by the pandemic will be resolved and is seeking clarity over budgeting to help handle the logjam, stating that more effort is needed to identify spending outcomes.
Currently health and social care spending accounts for over 50% of the Scottish budget.
Commenting on the committee’s finding, Jackie Baillie MSP for Dumbarton Constituency said: “Under the SNP, the NHS was in distress before the pandemic and waiting lists were spiralling out of control.
“The report reinforces my concerns over the handling of the pandemic, and the committee is right to highlight the issues around cancelled operations which I know has affected many people in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute.
“I have long been calling for rapid asymptomatic testing to be made available, which would go some way to easing the pressures, which is why I backed a vote in Parliament on widespread testing for health and social care workers.
“The SNP government has been slow to act and people in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute face significantly longer waiting times for operations.
“This report should be a wake-up call to Ministers to take urgent action to ensure the NHS is there for everyone who needs it.”
In the interim, Jackie Baillie has asked for weekly routine COVID-19 tests to be provided for all frontline workers, including for staff who provide at-home care.
This follows warnings from Royal Colleges and public health experts that the NHS is in danger of buckling under the double impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and additional winter illnesses.
The MSP has consistently requested COVID-19 tests to be given to all frontline workers include NHS hospital staff, care home staff and workers who provide at-home care.
The first home care worker to die of Covid 19 was Dumbarton woman Kathleen Sweeney, pictured left, who was honoured recently by her GMB union colleagues and friends for her dedication to her work with old people.
Jackie Baillie told The Democrat: “It is vitally important that every effort is made to reduce the pressure on the NHS as much as possible this winter. We already know that our services are at breaking point because of COVID-19 and the addition of the winter flu season is only going to make matters worse.
“All frontline staff, including hospital workers, care home staff and workers who provide at-home care, should be given routine COVID-19 tests to ensure that they can continue to carry out their important work without the worry of passing on COVID-19 to their vulnerable patients.
“Lessons are not being learnt about asymptomatic transmission, and from the tragic deaths linked to hospital and care home outbreaks.
“Testing and quicker contact tracing is crucial to minimising Covid-19 exposure in our NHS and to minimise the pressure on our health service this winter season.”