There are fears the potentially life threatening bungle has already led some of the masks being used in frontline hospitals and checks were urgently being made to make sure they had all been pulled.
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The French made products were labelled as being effective for use on coronavirus wards but in reality offered no protection although it is not clear exactly why they are of no use.
Dozens of hospitals received the items in the deeply worrying incident after being sent out to Trusts across the country via courier by the NHS Supply Chain.
The masks made by French firm Valmy were dispatched the last week of April and the red light warning was urgently sent out to NHS Trusts on May 1 urging them not to use them on Covid-19 wards.
Call centre staff at NHS Supply Chain have spent the last few days calling hospitals that have received the masks and told them to “quarantine” them and under no circumstances let staff have them.
They were told to call the affected trusts and read a script regarding the FFP2 masks which said: “Do not comment on the reason for quarantine or any other quality related queries.”
A source said: “It’s quite worrying really. There were 300,000 of these masks supplied to Trusts across the country the last week of April and each one has had to be called and told to quarantine the masks.
“Apparently they would have been completely useless if worn by doctors and nurses when treating or dealing with coronavirus patients.
“These people are putting their lives on the line and they should have the right equipment and to think these masks were sent out and some were used is worrying.”
The FFP2 mask is the type that doctors and nurses must use when treating patients with the coronavirus, and offer the most protection against viruses in the air.
They are particularly vital during ‘aerosolising’ procedures such as putting in a ventilator, which is when medical workers are most at risk of breathing in viruses.
FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece and besides the FFP2, there is the FFP3 which gives the highest level of protection against virus and bacterial infections, while FFP2 is the level below.
NHS guidance is for medics to use the FFP3 masks, while FFP2 is recommended by the World Health Organization.
The masks were sent out by the NHS Supply Chain through a separate specially established logistics department dealing exclusively with PPE.
A spokesperson said: “These products were wrongly classified due to a system error.
“All organisations have been contacted, made aware of the issue and have had replacement deliveries if needed.
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“We acknowledge the inconvenience this may have caused some NHS trusts and additional checks have now been introduced into the process to reduce the risk of this happening again.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS Supply Chain alerted a number of trusts to an issue with a delivery of surgical face masks which is being swiftly resolved.
“All organisations affected have been contacted and have received replacement deliveries.”
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