Frontline NHS staff fighting Covid were given ‘rotten’ masks, gowns crawling with INSECTS and out-of-date PPE with the expiry dates covered up, MPs are told
- Dr Emily McWhirter was director of nursing at Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability
- Recalled opening a box of gowns where ‘a load of insects crept out of them’
- Made revelations to House of Commons Public Accounts Committee
Frontline NHS staff were given masks with ‘rotten’ elastic and personal protective equipment (PPE) that had already expired, a Commons committee has been told.
Dr Emily McWhirter, who was director of nursing at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, in Wandsworth, London, recalled opening a box of gowns where ‘a load of insects crept out of them’ when giving examples of difficulties around equipment for healthcare workers during the coronavirus crisis.
Members of the Public Accounts Committee gasped when Dr McWhirter, who is now retired, said expiry dates had been covered up on items of protective equipment delivered to her hospital.
‘We did receive some [that] came from that stock and the expiry dates were covered over with new dates because the products were already expired,’ Dr McWhirter told MPs.
‘So they had put a new date on and they said it was still safe.
Dr Emily McWhirter, who was director of nursing at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, in Wandsworth, London, recalled opening a box of gowns where ‘a load of insects crept out of them’ when giving examples of difficulties around equipment for healthcare workers during the coronavirus crisis. Pictured: Dr McWhirter giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee
‘As a leader in an organisation where giving expired equipment, using expired equipment or giving an expired drug, is tantamount to a significant risk.
‘It’s an error for nurses and all of a sudden we’re saying to them it’s okay for you to use expired stock for yourselves.’
She added: ‘It really undermined the kind of safety we try to promote.’
The committee, which has launched an inquiry into the Government’s procurement and supply of PPE, heard evidence from a number of healthcare witnesses on Thursday.
Dr McWhirter, who was director of nursing at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, raised concerns about the quality of equipment – including masks where the elastic was ‘rotten’ and broke when they were used.
Frontline NHS staff were given masks with ‘rotten’ elastic and personal protective equipment (PPE) that had already expired, a Commons committee has been told. Pictured: File photo
Devastating report exposes chronic bungling and ‘jobs for pals’ in ministers’ desperate rush to buy safety gear during pandemic
A devastating report last month lifted the lid on the cronyism and ineptitude that has characterised the Government’s £18billion rush to source PPE and other equipment during the coronavirus crisis.
The National Audit Office revealed that officials had signed contracts for hundreds of thousands of facemasks which turned out to be unusable – wasting hundreds of millions of pounds.
But Business Secretary Alok Sharma refused to apologise for the extraordinary spending and allegations of cronyism, claiming there was ‘huge pressure’ to get PPE for the NHS at the start of the pandemic and through the first wave.
‘We did receive some stock where the elastic of the masks was rotten and every time you put it on they just broke, you couldn’t use them, they didn’t create any sort of seal,’ she said.
‘So whilst some stock did come through, some of it was of poor quality and created another layer of complexity for staff to understand why they should be using out of date products.’
Dr McWhirter, who said her hospital had used the NHS supply chain for PPE, told MPs that no guidance had been given on whether expired items of equipment were still working and effective.
She said that the hospital had conducted their own tests on the items, to check if they were water resistant.
‘But that’s not a formal process to reassure people,’ she added.
In May, it emerged that NHS workers had been forced to face the threat of coronavirus with masks which expired eight years ago in 2012.
The 3M masks were handed to staff working for the South West Ambulance Service.
That date had been covered over with two stickers.
The same month, nurses at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Foundation Trust discovered boxes of face masks which expired in 2012 had been relabelled with 2022 expiry dates.
Nurses who work on the frontline in Grimsby and Scunthorpe hospitals also claimed they have been told to wash and reuse PPE due to shortages across the Trust.
Last month, a devastating report by the National Audit Office revealed how the Government had spent £18billion on 8,600 contracts with firms to supply PPE amid shortages at the height of the crisis.
One Spanish businessman acting as a go-between was reportedly given £21million of UK taxpayers’ cash in deals made with a Florida-based jewellery designers who switched to selling PPE to governments during the pandemic.