NHS workers were forced to fight coronavirus with expired face masks eight years ago.
The 3M masks, expired in May 2012 according to their packaging, were handed over to staff working for the South West Ambulance Service on Thursday.
The date had been covered with two stickers. The first said that they were expired in May 2019, ten months before their distribution, and the second said that they could be used safely until May 2016.
The possibly dangerous equipment was returned to personnel just days after the government announced that it would send more than 1.7 million pieces of PPE to NHS personnel to intensify the battle for the country against COVID-19.
Date stickers stuck on the mask box reveal that they successfully sold by date in May 2012
The dates had been blocked from the original date, although they were distributed by the NHS despite their expiration in May 2019, according to the top sticker
One person who saw the masks said that ambulance personnel felt like “tossed a coin” when they put on the equipment.
“It’s just very uncomfortable,” they said. “It’s not on the mask itself, just the box. It makes you wonder if they sent it in the hope that the staff are not watching.
“Staff are informed early on that the expiration dates are there for a reason. With the three different stickers – is it just a matter of when is it good?
The dates were reported to a director who said that the masks, which remain inside a sealed box, have been tested and that they are “good to use”.
The director added that the masks can be used safely within five years of their original date. But that would mean that the masks distributed would be out of date in 2017.
The masks were handed over to staff by the Southwest Ambulance Service on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust said, “Some products may appear to have passed expiration or expiration dates or have renamed expiration or use dates.
“Rest assured that the products we issue have passed rigorous tests demonstrating that they are safe.
“In testing, PPE is exposed to extreme conditions for extended periods of time to see how the product deteriorates.
“Anyone who does not meet the standards is destroyed and is not distributed to trusts.”