News & Culture
UK-made PPE masks offer safety breakthrough for women frontline NHS workers
30th June 2021

Leading international PPE manufacturer Globus Group has launched an innovative range of respirators with an engineered shape that delivers reliable levels of protection for women NHS workers.

The masks, designed for and tested on NHS staff with smaller face shapes, will help address concerns over the level of protection needed by healthcare professionals treating Covid patients.

As the BBC reports today (29/6), the quality of face masks healthcare workers wear makes a huge difference to their risk of coronavirus infection. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust research found that wearing an FFP3 mask can provide up to 100% protection. By contrast, there is a far greater chance of staff wearing standard issue surgical masks catching the virus.

However, masks which have been made to fit the 'average person' by default can prove to be a poor fit for those with smaller face shapes. In the healthcare sector, this affects a large number of employees, with women accounting for 90% of nurses and 77% of all NHS staff. These typical respirators may not provide a tight seal against the face when worn by those with a smaller face shape, making them uncomfortable during long shifts and compromising the protection they offer.

Rather than utilising existing, Industrial focused respiratory products, Globus, which manufactures and supplies PPE in the UK for DHSC and NHS Scotland, created the H-Series FFP3 face mask specifically to meet the new demands of a challenging healthcare environment.

Globus, which is committed to 75% UK manufacturing has sites in Southern Scotland and North West England has opened four new factories this year creating around 1,000 new jobs

The issue of poorly fitted PPE for female healthcare workers has been highlighted numerous times by the British Medical Association (BMA), Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and others in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, nurses in Scotland have once again raised the issue of badly fitting PPE for women, complaining that masks originally designed for men have to be tightened to fit their faces, which "not only prevents women doing their job [but] can be a significant health and safety issue".

Steven Binnie, Managing Director of Alpha Solway, added: "It is simply not acceptable that the majority of the NHS workforce, who happen to be women, should have to contend with PPE which does not properly protect them and ultimately their patients when they are on the coronavirus frontline. It is absolutely essential that those operating on the frontline of the pandemic are properly protected and that their safety concerns are listened to and acted on.

"We are incredibly proud of the hard work Globus has been doing throughout the pandemic to ensure frontline NHS staff have the high-quality PPE they need and deserve We hope that one of the lessons learned from coronavirus will be a greater recognition of the need for PPE which properly fits and protects women as well as men."

This comes as more than 20 healthcare organisations, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, and other professional organisations and unions, joined together in calling for greater provision of properly fitted FFP3 masks for frontline staff, in an unprecedented example of health and care organisations uniting on a single issue in this way.

The organisations have emphasised that existing rules which do not require FFP3 masks leave workers vulnerable to airborne transmission of viruses and urged the government to ensure all staff caring for Covid patients are issued with masks that are more effective at protecting against infectious aerosols.

Amanda Mercy-Triga, one of the nurses at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle who has been wearing Alpha Solway's HX - Series masks throughout the pandemic, commented: "The Alpha Solway HX Series mask is comfortable and I felt protected whilst wearing it. I wore them during the entire COVID period."

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