The first UK NHS body to make its own protective masks in the north-east England

Filtering Face Piece 3 masks, (FFP3) were used extensively in hospitals during the pandemic.

Gateshead Health NHS Trust was faced with a shortage and decided to create its own subsidiary company QE Facilities.

Anthony Robson, the managing director, stated that one of the four mask layers was antiviral and has been shown to kill Covid.

He said, “It took us a lot more hard work and investment to reach this stage.”

“Each part and every stage of the masks had to be precisely designed to ensure that they meet the standards and provide effective filtration.”

The NHS was faced with severe shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic. Since then, the government has been criticised for its urgent procurement.

Last year it emerged that 50m face masks bought in April 2020 could not be used because of safety concerns.

Masks are used to prevent the spread of infection by protecting against airborne viruses and fine particles. Staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead were involved in the design.

Consultant Ruky Talawila stated that they could be uncomfortable and were worn often for entire shifts.

She said, “We had a lot of input into designing these masks to ensure compliance with maximum protection and comfort.”

“We are also considering a plastic nosepiece so that NHS radiology staff may still wear their (FFP3 masks) when using MRI machines.”

The facility is currently in talks to produce the masks for both the private and public sectors

The trust’s company invested in German machinery and the masks will be made in Plant-Based Valley, Seaton Delaval in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust.

Sarah Rose, Northumbria’s manufacturing & innovation hub divisional director said that the trust realized early in the pandemic that it needed local supplies of PPE. The trust bought large-scale production space within the region.

Now, the masks are going through final testing at the British Standards Laboratory. They will likely be certified by August’s end.

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