Dr Tom Black, chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland Council, said: “This oversight by a third-party contractor carrying out fit testing of respiratory masks for key frontline health service staff is extremely concerning.
“Although this fit testing may have met the standards set in the Republic of Ireland which follow the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, the fact is it did not meet the UK standards in which our service operates.
“At this stage we cannot quantify the risk this oversight has had on staff affected, but at the very least it has damaged confidence in the fit testing system. This confidence was already tested with issues over supply and quality of PPE at the start of the pandemic. We’ve also been told by some of our own members they were left with the impression they had failed fit testing only to be informed they had passed. And today we have been informed that this issue also affects GPs who had been fit tested by the Health and social care board.
“We call on the Department of Health to restore the confidence of frontline health service staff by ensuring the following is done urgently: review all fit testing results and inform any health service worker who may have been given an incorrect pass as soon as possible; any health service worker affected - and anyone else not confident in their fit testing results - should be offered a further fit test appointment as a matter of urgency and should not work in AGP areas (aerosol generating procedure) areas until that appointment has happened; all health service workers should be offered an antibody test to look for past infection, but this would be at the discretion of the worker and would not be mandatory.
“This is the very least that can be done for the frontline health service workers affected by this, people who have worked selflessly throughout this pandemic in highly pressurised conditions.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
For further information please contact:
Phone: 028 9026 9672
Mobile: 074 0880 9519
Email: Elizabeth Hendron ([email protected])