In February 2020, SMTL were asked to assess two models of face masks in the Welsh pandemic stores. Working with Alex Grubb from SFP in Dorset and SMTL's medical device testing labs, we were able to demonstrate that the masks were fit for purpose and met the filtration requirements of the standard.
It wasn't the first time we had assessed these masks for filtration efficiency and various other physical characteristics, but little did we know that face masks (and other types of PPE) would come to dominate our working lives for the next 4 months.
Within a month, SMTL found themselves immersed in providing technical advice and testing services on medical gloves, gowns, masks and respirators. As the Covid 19 crisis intensified, SMTL's expertise in the testing and performance requirements of medical devices was being used to support our Procurement colleagues as they dealt with thousands of queries from manufacturers hoping to be able to provide much needed PPE to the Welsh NHS.
SMTL and NWSSP Procurement set up a process so that once Procurement had identified potential suppliers (working in conjunction with the Life Sciences Hub), SMTL would check their documents to ensure they complied with the various regulations, had an appropriate Quality Management System in place, and finally check that the test data and reports demonstrated compliance with the relevant standards.
SMTL's usual medical device testing schedule continued, but with a focus on gowns and gloves particularly. The volume of work was so great at times that SMTL had to sub contract testing to labs in Belgium, the USA and the UK. SMTL's physical and biological testing labs undertook testing of devices to support the UK regulators when deciding whether gowns bought through the national procurement routes were fit for use.
In case the UK experienced significant shortages of PPE, a 4 Nations group was setup to evaluate whether it was possible to reuse some of the PPE safely. SMTL participated in this group and provided testing facilities to check whether medical gowns could be reprocessed and used more than once.
As well as testing and assessing medical devices, SMTL provided advice on standards, testing and specifications to Welsh Government, UK Government, and Welsh Industry.
As of July 2020 SMTL's workload has returned to some semblance of normality,