PPE: Gateshead NHS Trust first to make its own masks

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PPE: Gateshead NHS Trust first to make its own masks
QE Facilities FFP3 masksimage sourceGateshead Health NHS Trust
The masks have four layers, one of which is anti-viral

A north-east of England health trust is the first NHS body in the UK to manufacture its own protective face masks.

Filtering Face Piece 3 masks (FFP3) are used extensively in hospitals and were in short supply early in the pandemic.

The shortage prompted Gateshead Health NHS Trust to look at making its own via its subsidiary company QE Facilities.

Managing director Anthony Robson said one of the mask's four layers was anti-viral and proven to kill Covid.

"It's taken us a lot of hard work and investment to get to this stage," he said.

"Every part and stage has had to be precision-engineered to make sure that these masks meet the standard and are effective at filtration."

QE Facilities FFP3 mask making facilityimage sourceGateshead Health NHS Trust
When fully up and running the facility will be able to produce 18 masks per minute

The NHS faced severe shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment) early in the pandemic and the government has since been criticised for the way urgent procurement was carried out.

Last year it emerged that could not be used because of safety concerns.

Masks are worn to protect against fine particles and airborne viruses and prevent infection spreading and staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead have been involved in the design of their product.

Consultant Ruky Talawila said they were often worn for an entire shift and could be uncomfortable.

"We had lots of input into the design of these masks to ensure compliance and comfort with maximum protection," she said.

"We're also looking at a plastic nose piece so that NHS radiology staff can still wear our FFP3 masks when using the MRI machine."

QE Facilities FFP3 masksimage sourceGateshead Health NHS Trust
The facility is in discussions to make the masks for the public and private sectors

The trust's company has invested in machinery from Germany and the masks are being made in Plant Based Valley, in Seaton Delaval in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust.

Northumbria's manufacturing and innovation hub divisional director, Sarah Rose, said the trust had realised early in the pandemic it needed a local supply of PPE and bought large-scale production space in the area.

The masks are now going through final tests at the British Standards Laboratory with the expectation they will be certified by the end of August.

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