Members below transcript of letter to Mr Andrew Dawson, Director of Workforce Policy, Health and Social Care (HSC) from Anne Speed, Lead Joint Secretary, Rita Devlin, Interim Joint Secretary, Maria Morgan, Joint Secretary, Trade Union Side.

The Health Trade Unions remain concerned about the recent issue with Fit Testing within Trusts in NI and the revelation that an independent company carried out fit testing to a different standard that that which had been agreed by Northern Ireland. We are raising concerns about the Department of Health’s statement and we urgently require answers to the following questions

As part of the audit, a validation and audit exercise of all fit-tests conducted by this independent contractor: What reassurance will staff get from hearing another audit is being carried out? Trade Unions find it unacceptable that the audit is being completed by the contractor who created the problem. We demand that an independent audit is carried out immediately

Standards: What standard was used to measure the competence of the fit testers used by the affected company? How were the services of these companies procured and against what criteria?

Is there any evidence from the review of force fitting – multiple repeat fit tests with the aim of achieving a pass?  If so then what steps are being taken to prevent this happening in future?

There have been several clusters of staff infected by coronavirus in a number of Trusts. Can we be assured that these clusters were not as a result of fit testing by this company?

The company is also carrying out a review of the testing data: What is the purpose of this review…what will it tell us?

Any staff affected will be retested as a matter of urgency: What does this mean? What is the time frame? What do they do in the meantime? Are they being advised not to work in high risk areas?

Has the Department of Health asked for a regional help and advice line to be established? What about their families? Can alternative accommodation be arranged between testing and results if staff have concerns?

These checks are being taken as a precautionary: How can the Department of Health call these tests precautionary? They are being taken because staff have been given wrong results, causing them to be placed in high risk situations, in accordance with the Department of Health’s own standards for fit testing?

This step is to reassure staff that the masks are being fitted to the highest safety standards: Again, this is a disingenuous statement. They were not fit tested to the highest standards otherwise we wouldn’t be in this situation

Rigorous tried and tested procedures have been in place for staff to highlight any concerns: How can they raise concerns when they don’t know what has been going on until days after the event? This again is a disingenuous statement and wrongly puts the onus on staff rather than on those who procured the company and oversaw the work of the company.

Health and Safety Executive (NI): The Trade Unions seek assurance that the Department of Health and the Trusts have informed the Health and Safety Executive of this issue and will facilitate any enquiry that they may wish to initiate.

Anne Speed, Lead Joint Secretary
Rita Devlin, Interim Joint Secretary
Maria Morgan, Joint Secretary
Kevin McAdam, Trade Union Chairperson