Safety fears prevent use of 50 million NHS face masks

Face coverings reminder

Safety fears prevent use of 50 million NHS face masks

Fifty million face masks bought by the government in April will not be used in the NHS because of safety concerns, it has emerged.

Ministers wasted at least £150 million buying masks with the wrong kind of straps, according to The Times.

The government says the masks, which use ear-loop fastenings rather than head loops, may not fit tightly enough.

They were bought for healthcare workers from supplier Ayanda Capital as part of a £252 million contract.

Ayanda says the masks meet the specifications the government had set out. The government says its safety standards process is “robust”.

It has also emerged that the person who originally approached the government about the deal was a government trade adviser who also advises the board of Ayanda.

But he has told the BBC his position played no part in the awarding of the contract.

The contract included 50 million high-strength “FFP2” medical masks costing an estimated £150 million to £180 million, as well as 150 million cheaper “IIR” masks.

Officials have admitted that the 43.5 million Chinese-made FFP2 masks delivered so far did not meet standards and could not be used in the NHS,  according to legal documents seen by The Times.

It is not clear what will happen now to the 50 million masks.

A government statement said: “Throughout this global pandemic, we have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect people on the frontline.

“Over 2.4 billion items have been delivered, and more than 30 billion have been ordered from UK-based manufacturers and international partners to provide a continuous supply, which meets the needs of health and social care staff both now and in the future.

“There is a robust process in place to ensure orders are of high quality and meet strict safety standards, with the necessary due diligence undertaken on all government contracts.”

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