Senior GPs warned on social media that supplies of PPE delivered to practices in recent days were 'four years out of date' with 'fake best before dates'.
Dear @MattHancock and @NHSEngland would you care to explain why you are sending boxes of 4 yr out of date surgical masks with fake best before dates to GP practices as PPE to "protect" us from #coronavirus ? I guess we really are expendable pic.twitter.com/if75hmebg4— Matt Mayer (@alwaysthedutydr) March 16, 2020
But the government has insisted that masks, aprons and gloves delivered to practices are safe - and that kit has been tested to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
A DHSC spokesperson said: 'Every piece of PPE supplied to GPs in England is safe to use and will effectively protect staff if used correctly.
'NHS Supply Chain and Public Health England have worked with manufacturers and independent testing houses to formally test certain products, to see if it is possible to extend their life via accelerated age testing.
'The products that pass these stringent tests are subject to relabelling with a new shelf-life as appropriate and can continue to be used. All that are not up to standard will be destroyed.'
NHS England said earlier this month that every practice in England would receive 'an initial stock' of PPE including 400 general use aprons, 300 pairs of examination gloves and 300 fluid repellent face masks, with further deliveres for larger practices.
NHS officials have said the kit provided was approved by Public Health England experts. But GPs have raised concerns about the standard of PPE supplied - with some raising concerns that the type of mask provided offers lower protection than those used, for example, at NHS 111 testing centres.
So GPs have finally been provided with PPE for #COVID2019uk— Dr John G Hughes (@johnghughes3) March 10, 2020
However the supplies are not quite what is recommended; paper mask, plastic apron and gloves (all medium size)
Barely adequate for cleaning the toilets.
Seriously @NHSEngland @PHE_uk ??
Is this how you rate GPs? pic.twitter.com/7etFFy94Em
LMCs have reported that 'more and better PPE is being procured centrally' - and guidance from Cambridgeshire LMC says practices should only allow staff to see patients with symptoms of potential coronavirus infection in an 'isolation room where they can be seen with a clinician wearing scrubs and PPE'. The guidance adds: 'No PPE, no see.'
Practices across the UK are taking steps to reduce face-to-face contact with patients where possible, shifting to a model in which most patient contacts are handled online or by telephone, and with some practices moving to offer urgent appointments only.