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Contaminated First-Aid Dressings

Volume 20: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the proposal to reprocess contaminated first-aid dressings imported from India; what precautions will be observed; what tests are carried out; and what supervision will be exercised prior to any dressings being placed on sale.

As was made clear in the document placed in the Library of the House by my predecessor on 26 January, steam sterilisation of suspect first-aid dressings will be acceptable if undertaken in the proper manner. The paper used for the inner wrapping of such dressings is also regarded as suspect and the dressings would need to be rewrapped. Suppliers holding stocks of these dressings who are considering resterilisation by the recommended steam process have been strongly advised to contact the Department before proceeding. The responsibility for ensuring that products sold as sterile are in fact sterile must remain with the supplier, but the Department is maintaining strict oversight of resterilisation procedures and will commission further sterility tests as necessary.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many tests for sterility have been carried out on United Kingdom manufactured first-aid dressings; what were the results; if he is satisfied that there is no danger to health; and if he will make a statement.

The Department arranged for representative samples of sterile standard first-aid dressings manufactured in the United Kingdom to be tested. Tests on a limited number of samples cannot establish sterility with certainty. Properly validated and controlled sterilising procedures are the best assurance. The Department has visited the three United Kingdom manufacturers, Smith and Nephew Ltd., Robert Bailey and Sons Ltd. and Robinsons of Chesterfield Ltd., to examine their sterilising procedures for first-aid products. The results of the tests backed by these visits have provided adequate assurance of the sterility of first-aid dressings from these manufacturers and I am satisfied that they pose no danger to health.