HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock has vowed to “personally” investigate why Cumbria’s ambulance trust failed to give front line staff adequately tested respirator masks.

Mr Hancock gave the assurance after the News & Star, the sister paper of The Mail, highlighted how ambulance crews were exposed to avoidable risk after they were given respirators for which they had not been “fit-tested.”

All such PPE masks must be individually fitted to ensure they are sufficiently airtight to prevent infection.

More than 200 ambulance staff in the county may have been affected.

North West Ambulance Service confirmed that it had introduced a respirator “fit-testing” programme in mid April - more than 20 days after the start of the lockdown. Managers insist they were doing all they can to protect staff.

But the public sector workers’ union Unison demanded an investigation, saying that it had raised the failure to fit test PPE masks worn by ambulance staff in March last year.

At a Downing Street briefing, the News & Star suggested the problem was “systemic” rather than linked to any issue with the masks, and asked the Health Secretary how he would ensure workers will never again be exposed to such a risk.

Mr Hancock said: “I know that there were some problems with that as well at the start. I hope we’ve resolved them now. It was all part of going from needing normal amounts of PPE to needing very high amounts of PPE. I will personally make sure the specific example you raise will be looked into.”

He promised to speak again once he had investigated so could provide a full answer. The Government had now signed deals with over 100 suppliers across the world to secure more PPE and ramped up domestic production.

Unison’s Mike Oliver said: “There needs to be an investigation. If masks are not fit-tested, staff can be exposed to airborne particles and infection.

North West Ambulance Service was not properly prepared.”