GP leaders have reacted in anger after practices were told to return outdated protective equipment – weeks after it was issued.
The British Medical Association said it was a “national scandal.” It followed news that the Department of Health issued a recall notice on 26 June. At the outset of the pandemic, distribution of personal protective equipment was dogged by reports that practices and care homes were receiving equipment well past its expiry date.
Sky News said the recall notice referred to Cardinal Healthcare IIR masks – and affected more than 80 batches of masks issued to practices and care homes. Recipients were asked to destroy the masks. The items had had their shelf life extended in 2014 – but failed a recent test.
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said NHS organisations had been told in March that products had been tested and was safe. He said: “Given these explicit assurances, we now need clear answers as to how these masks were distributed and allowed to be used. Crucially, we need a cast iron guarantee that no faulty or out of date PPE is currently on the front line or in community care.
“Every single item of faulty PPE should now be withdrawn from stocks and replaced with sufficient equipment that is in-date – not re-dated – and with rigorous quality control measures to ensure these properly protect health and care staff.”
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “It’s imperative that practices that have had to return PPE supplies are replenished with safe stocks as a matter of urgency. More widely, ensuring that GPs have access to a sustainable and adequate supply of the appropriate PPE equipment is essential to keeping GPs, patients, and the wider communities safe, and preventing a second wave of the virus.”
The college is also seeking assurances that test results will be reported to practices rapidly as members of the public undergo antigen and antibody testing. Professor Marshall said: “We have been assured that this is now happening, although we are aware that some GP IT systems were activated later than others, and there may be a backlog involved in updating records in some cases.”