Some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplied to hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic had expired, a committee of MPs has heard.
Speaking at a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, medical representatives from the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association described how some stock had been rebranded with new use-by date stickers that gave a different expiry date to the one they saw underneath.
Dr Emily McWhirter, a retired nurse from the RCN, told the committee that expiry dates on stock she received at her hospital had lapsed and new dates were stuck over them to replace them.
“We did receive some supplies that came from some early stock and the expiry dates were covered over with new dates, even though they had already expired. They put the new date on and said it was still safe.”
Dr McWhirter described the danger it posed to her profession: “As a leader in an organisation giving and using expired equipment is tantamount to a significant risk.
“It is an error for nurses. It really undermined the safety we try to promote.”
As well as expired stock, Dr McWhirter said some early stock was also of poor quality: “We received some stock where the elastics on the masks were just rotten, they just broke, you couldn’t use them, they didn’t create any sort of seal.”
She added that in one instance, she opened a box of gowns and a “load of insects came out”.
It led to her feeling as though she could not promise to her staff that the equipment was safe.
With some of the stock being poor quality it “created another layer of complexity for staff to try and understand why they should be using out of date products”.
Gasps could be heard from those present at the committee meeting.
There was no guidance to reassure staff, Dr McWhirter said.
The hospital she worked at said they tried not to use that stock where possible.
The committee has launched an inquiry into the government procurement and the contracts for PPE.
NHS England have been approached for comment.