£4bn NHS COVID-19 PPE to be burned as unusable, watchdog shares
Personal protective equipment (PPE) worth £4bn bought early in the pandemic to stop NHS staff being infected with COVID-19 is to be burned because it is unusable, a report has revealed.
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, a parliamentary watchdog on public spending, has accused the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for England of wasting £4bn of taxpayers’ money on unusable personal protective equipment in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and of planning to burn much of it to “generate power.”
“The story of PPE purchasing is perhaps the most shameful episode in the UK Government response to the pandemic,” said Meg Hillier, the committee’s chair. “At the start of the pandemic health service and social service staff were left to risk their own and their families’ lives due to the lack of basic PPE.
“In a desperate bid to catch up, the government splurged huge amounts of money, paying obscenely inflated prices and payments to middlemen in a chaotic rush during which they chucked out even the most cursory due diligence.”
The DHSC has so much unneeded PPE that it has appointed two commercial waste firms to help it dispose of 15,000 pallets a month “via a combination of recycling and burning to generate power”, the Guardian shared.
The committee has stated that the department lost 75% of the £12bn spent on PPE to inflated prices and kit that did not meet requirements. This includes the £4bn worth that will not be used by the NHS and will be disposed of.
Further, 25% of the PPE contracts are now in dispute, the committee shared. One such contract was for 3.5 billion gloves, of which there are allegations against the manufacturer of modern slavery.
The DHSC disputed some of the findings. A spokesperson commented: “A number of these claims are misleading, including the claims that we are burning £4bn of unusable PPE and that there is no clear disposal strategy for excess PPE.
“In the face of an unpredictable and dangerous virus, we make no apology for procuring too much PPE rather than too little, and only 3% of the PPE we procured was unusable in any context.”