Opening hours at Blaydon Urgent Treatment Centre are temporarily changing due to staffing. New opening times are 2pm to 9pm daily, until further notice.

NHS in Gateshead to make FFP3 masks

QE Facilities Ltd is leading the way to become the first NHS body in the country to start to manufacture FFP3 masks.

FFP3 (Filtering Face Piece 3) masks have become well-known during the covid pandemic, yet have been used in 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.

QE Facilities Ltd is the wholly owned subsidiary company of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, based in the North East of England.

Anthony Robson, managing director for QE Facilities 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 manufacture 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-viral layer, which has been proven to kill covid on contact and is also non-allergenic. On completion the masks are individually packed and are UV-sterilised.”

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 Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead in the process. Ruky Talawila, one of the consultants involved in the design process, commented:

“Staff will often wear these masks for their 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 to ensure compliance and comfort with maximum protection.”

“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 NHS radiology staff 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.

Working in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, the masks are being made in Plant Based Valley, in Seaton Delaval, Blyth Valley and forms part of the North East NHS’s desire to produce high-quality PPE locally.

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, QE Facilities Ltd will be able to produce 18 masks every minute and discussions are ongoing for contracts in both the public and private sectors.