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COVID-19: production of personal protective equipment must be ‘ramped up’

Supplies are enough for coming weeks, says head of NHS England

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens: 'UK needs to ramp up PPE production'

The production of personal protective equipment (PPE) will have to be ‘ramped up’ as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, the head of NHS England has said.

Chief executive Simon Stevens said currently there are sufficient supplies of PPE for the ‘coming weeks’.

However, he told the Health and Social Care committee on 17 March that more equipment will be needed.

‘Distribution problems’ with surgical face masks

‘Given that this is not a flash in the pan – this is not something that is going to be resolved in a fortnight or a month, the coronavirus pandemic is going to be with us for months to come – we are going to have to ramp up domestic production on [gowns and face masks] as well,’ Mr Stevens said,

Although he acknowledged there had been ‘distributional problems’ getting PPE to some parts of the country, he added that the NHS had more than 28 million of the ‘most intense’ kind of face masks, with more in production.

‘Those face masks are here in the country,’ he said.

Shelf life of ‘out-of-date’ masks had been legitimately extended

His comments follow reassurance from the government that surgical face masks sent to GP practice staff are safe, after some surgeries were sent masks that appeared to be out of date.

On Monday, a GP shared an image on social media of recently delivered boxes of face masks with 2021 expiry date stickers placed over ones that said 2016.

However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that some GP practices were sent PPE that had its shelf-life extended in compliance with certified and independently tested practice.

A DHSC spokesperson added: ‘The products that pass these stringent tests are subject to relabelling with a new shelf-life as appropriate, and can continue to be used.

‘All that are not up to standard will be destroyed.’

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