NHS staff fighting the coronavirus in the south west have been supplied with expired face masks from the Government with two 'best-before' stickers masking the original expiry date. Pictures show unsealed and unopened boxes of 3M masks with two best before stickers stuck over the original expiry date printed, of 24/05/2012.

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The box was said to have arrived to NHS staff at South West Ambulance Service on Thursday, April 2 in a bid to equip staff with tools to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite arriving with a large 31/05/19 expiry stamp on the side of the box, a picture reveals a large yellow 31/05/16 best before date underneath.

Sources claim the confusion was flagged to senior management within the NHS but it was relayed that the Government had tested the masks and were safe to use.

It comes just days after the Government announced it would send out over 1.7million pieces of PPE to NHS staff as it sought to ramp up the UK's fight against coronavirus. A source said: "It's just very uncomfortable.

"It's not on the mask itself just the box. It makes you question whether they sent it out in the hope that staff wouldn't bother looking. "Staff are told early on that expiry dates are there for a reason. "At the moment staff feel as though it's a case of flipping a coin and seeing whether or not they contract it. "With the three different stickers -- it's just a case of when is it good for? "It was flagged to director level but they have said tests have been carried out and they are fine to use. "Staff were also told masks are safe to use within five years of the original best before date.

"But even if that is the case, that would mean the cut off point would be 2017.

"But it's all very vague and no one has seen the results from these tests."

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: "Some products may appear to have out-of-date 'use by/expiration' dates or have relabelled 'use by/expiration' dates.

"Please be assured products we are issuing have passed stringent tests that demonstrate they are safe.

"As part of the tests the PPE is exposed to extreme conditions for prolonged periods to see how the product deteriorates.

"Any that are not up to standard are destroyed and are not distributed to trusts."