Nearly £600,000 of NHS protective equipment was destroyed after failing tests with other PPE linked to Chinese labour camps.

We can reveal that millions of masks and goggles were binned after a rush to secure vital PPE as Covid struck.

Items destroyed included respirator valve masks and charity donated masks.

They included:

*90,000 respirator valve masks made by US firm Medline

*Three million pairs of goggles lenses and frames from US company Tiger Medical Products

*66,000 poorly made facemasks from Dumfrieshire-based Alpha Solway and:

*700 charity donated masks it was feared were made at forced-labour camps in China.

The NHS’s National Services Scotland (NSS) — who handle procurement for Scotland’s 14 health boards — have been involved in the destruction of the PPE.

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The Scottish and UK Government were forced to rush through millions of pounds worth of PPE contracts at the start of the pandemic after fears they were just hours away from running out.

More than £340 million of spending in Scotland came under scrutiny from public spending watchdog Audit Scotland but a report last week found contracts were handed out “fairly”.

Royal College of Nursing Scotland’s Interim Director Colin Poolman said: “Nursing staff need to feel safe and deserve to be supplied with the correct PPE no matter where they work in health and social care.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we received frequent reports from our members who were concerned that they did not have adequate or correct equipment.

“They also told us that they did not feel confident in the advice they were getting.”

The Sunday Mail can reveal that last July 90,000 Mask Respirator Valved FR masks made by Medline were destroyed by NHS chiefs.

The order, which also cost £90,000, was destroyed because NHS boards using them reported “high fit-test failure rates”.

The masks had failed shelf-life tests and although the Health and Safety Executive said it was safe to use the stock already in circulation, the Scottish Government ordered the NSS to withdraw them.

In June, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care told the NSS to destroy over three million pairs of goggles and lenses it had bought from Tiger Medical Products.

The orders, worth over £500,000 were part of the UK’s pandemic stockpile.

But experts feared they were of no use against Covid.

Alpha Solway director Steven Binnie.
Alpha Solway director Steven Binnie.

And in November, NHS Lothian and Tayside raised issues with the nose wires in respirator masks made by Alpha Solway.

But the 66,000 affected masks were collected by the Dumfries-based company who replaced them.

The firm had been awarded a £53 million deal for PPE in 2020 to make 232 million surgical masks and six million respirator masks.

And the NSS destroyed over 700 face masks it feared were made in forced labour camps in China by a company called Medwell Medical Products earlier this year.

The masks were given to the NSS by a charity.

But fears emerged the masks had been made by Uighur muslims held in prison camps in the north-west Xinjiang province.

China’s government have been accused of imprisoning up to one million Uighurs in so-called “re-education camps”.

Previous in-mates have claimed they faced brutal conditions and even medical experimentation at the camps.

The Scottish Government ordered NSS to destroy 720 medical-grade face masks made by Medwell after an investigation found around 25 per cent of its workforce came from the Xinjiang region.

Naomi McAuliffe
Amnesty International's Naomi McAuliffe expressed concern over Taser use

Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director, said: “NHS Scotland were absolutely right to destroy masks suspected of being manufactured under conditions of forced labour but must maintain robust ethical sourcing standards.”

Last week, while Audit Scotland said the contracts were given out “fairly” it found the NSS had failed to publish details of the direct awards on time in 80 per cent of the contracts.

A previous report by Audit Scotland in June said some PPE was just eight hours away from running out.

Last May, Jim Miller, director of procurement for National Services Scotland, said the PPE being mass produced for the nation’s health and care workers “may not be of as high quality as we would like”.

Gordon Beattie, Director of Director of National Procurement, NHS National Services Scotland said: “NSS has played an essential role in securing Scotland’s supplies of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This PPE has been crucial in limiting the transmission of the virus by protecting health and social care workers and the people they care for.

“Between March 2020 and April 2021, NSS supplied 1.1 billion items of PPE, worth £218 million, to health and social care across Scotland.

“As highlighted in the recent Audit Scotland report, no issues were identified with the quality of PPE procured by NSS or the companies it contracted. “NSS has maintained its quality assurance systems throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and any quality issues are dealt with in line with best practice.”

Alpha Solway, Medline and Tiger Medical Products were all asked to comment on the issues with their PPE supplies but did not respond.