Two North East hospital trusts have partnered up to manufacture FFP3 masks for staff
Together, QE Facilities Ltd and the Northumbria Healthcare Innovation and Manufacturing Hub are leading the way to become the first collective NHS body to start to manufacture FFP3 masks in the country.
Working in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, the masks are being made in Seaton Delaval, Blyth Valley and forms part of the North East’s NHS desire to produce high-quality PPE locally.
FFP3 (Filtering Face Piece 3) masks have become well know during the covid pandemic, yet have been used within the NHS for years to protect staff against fine particles and airborne viruses and prevent the spread to others. They are used in all clinical and non-clinical settings.
Anthony Robson, managing director for QE Facilities, a subsidiary of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We started to look at how we could produce our own high-quality masks during the pandemic when the need for them became greater. It’s taken us a lot of hard work and investment to get to this stage.
“We have invested in state-of-the-art machinery from Germany and our teams have undergone training to run and manufacturer these masks. Every part and stage has had to be precision-engineered to make sure that these masks meet the standard and are effective at filtration.
“Our FFP3 mask has four layers, one of which is an anti-bacterial layer, which has been proven to kill covid on contact and is also non-allergenic. Before they are packed, they are sterilised with UV lights.
These masks are currently going through testing by the British Standards Laboratory and will be certified by the end of August.
Anthony continues, “It’s great to finally see these masks produced by the NHS, for the NHS.”
The FFP3 masks have been produced with comfort and protection in mind and have involved staff from the QE Hospital in Gateshead in the process. Ruky Talawila, one of the consultants involved in the design process commented:
“We’re often wearing these masks for our full shifts and more often than not, they can be uncomfortable. It was great to be involved in this process and as a team, we had lots of input into the design of these masks.
“The mask will include a headband rather than the standard straps and have also been designed to fit better on our face which will be a much more comfortable fit.”
“We’re also looking at a plastic nose piece so that we can still wear our FFP3 masks when using the MRI machine.”
Each mask is individually fitted to staff members to achieve good contact between the skin and the face seal of the mask. Each mask fits slightly differently to an individual’s face as this is the only way to ensure protection.
Sarah Rose, divisional director of the Northumbria Healthcare Manufacturing and Innovation Hub said: “At the start of the pandemic we learnt very quickly that to protect our workforce, we needed to secure a local supply of PPE. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust purchased a large-scale production space in the locality, with an ambition to eventually share the opportunity with neighbouring trusts and partners. The production of FFP3 masks has been an ongoing project with QE Facilities Ltd, and I am pleased to see the install of the machine has been a success. Tens of thousands of healthcare staff will benefit from this move, not to mention those in the private sector as production grows.”
Once up and running, the partnership will see 18 masks produced every minute and discussions are ongoing for purchasing contracts in both the public and private sectors.