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Coronavirus: Protective Clothing

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN HL2327, tabled on 18 August 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) the investigation by BBC News, published on 28 July, which found that one million masks manufactured in China and supplied to the NHS as high grade did not meet the correct level of protection, (2) how fake personal protective equipment (PPE) entered the UK supply chain, (3) the number of (a) staff, and (b) patients, that were given faulty PPE, (4) the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as a result of using such faulty PPE, (5) the amount of money that government departments have spent on faulty PPE, and (6) the options for seeking restitution and compensation from the suppliers of faulty PPE.

Answered on

15 September 2021

For all personal protective equipment (PPE), certification is checked through a technical assurance process before the products are released for distribution. Following information received from the National Health Service in February, we quarantined and recalled the affected products and reviewed the technical certification.

As part of our investigation, we commissioned the British Standards Institution to test the masks. While the findings stated the affected masks failed to meet to FFP3 requirements, they passed all the testing requirements for an FFP2 respirator. The World Health Organization recommends the use of N95 or FFP2 respirators for health workers performing aerosol-generating procedures, wearers should have been afforded protection. These masks are not recommended to be worn by patients. We have commissioned an independent root cause analysis investigation and we await the outcome.

As of 10 June, 1.9 billion items of stock were in the ‘do not supply’ category. This is equivalent to 6.2% of purchased volume with an estimated value of £2.8 billion. We are considering options to repurpose and recycle items in this category which ensures safety and value for money. Discussions with suppliers are ongoing.