- Auditors trawled through the accounts of Department of Health and Social Care
- Of the £13.6billion it spent on PPE, £9.9billion has been written off as ‘unusable’
Nearly £10billion in taxpayer cash was wasted on faulty PPE during the pandemic, the public spending watchdog has confirmed.
Auditors trawled through the accounts of Department of Health and Social Care, which was responsible for buying masks, gloves and gowns during the pandemic.
A final report states that, of the £13.6billion it spent on PPE, £9.9billion has been written off because it is ‘unusable’, meaning it is either defective, unsuitable for use within the NHS or out of date.
Ministers also paid hugely over the odds and were left with equipment which later crashed in value.
Officials are planning to dispose of ‘nearly all’ remaining PPE, which are currently being stored in warehouses and containers, the National Audit Office (NAO) said.
Auditors trawled through the accounts of Department of Health and Social Care, which was responsible for buying masks, gloves and gowns during the pandemic
A final report states that, of the £13.6billion it spent on PPE, £9.9billion has been written off because it is ‘unusable’, meaning it is either defective, unsuitable for use within the NHS or out of date
Last year, officials revealed redundant PPE was being burned at a rate of 580 lorry loads per month. Pictured: Supplies at the NHS’ National Procurement Warehouse at Canderside, Larkhall in 2020
Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said the majority of the UK’s PPE stock is now of ‘insignificant value’.
It was estimated to cost taxpayers around £7million a month in March 2022 to store the millions of remaining items of PPE.
Some was even being stored in China, having never reached Britain during the height of the pandemic.
No10 blamed the astonishing levels of waste on the short supply of PPE worldwide during the early days of the pandemic which caused costs to rise ‘significantly’.
Mr Davies noted the DHSC is still attempting to recover value from the wastage by identifying possible cases of fraud.
Officials said they have prevented or recovered £202million worth of PPE-related fraud. They are trying to probe and get back cash from other fraud cases and for PPE that was never delivered.
Mr Davies said that ‘ongoing efforts to detect, prevent and recover fraud must continue, improving public confidence that this drain on the public finances is being tackled effectively and efficiently’.
Downing Street defended the losses by pointing to the havoc that Covid wreaked.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak‘s official spokesman said: ‘It’s important not to forget the circumstances in which the UK and countries globally found themselves during a pandemic when globally PPE was in extremely short supply.
‘The costs as a result increased significantly and the Government took the decision very transparently to do everything possible to secure protective equipment for frontline health and care workers, that was right.’
DHSC has also taken to selling masks, gloves and gowns through online auctions.
As of February 2023, 11,900 pallets, equating to 161million items, had been dished out this way.
Officials had sold, recycled, burned or donated, including to Ukraine, 269,500 pallets of PPE, as of February 2023.
DHSC said that every pallet that had been gotten rid of has saved £2.49 in storage per week since September 2022.
Problems with unusable PPE includes failed quality tests, masks ordered with the wrong loops and gowns that were the wrong size or sent in the wrong packaging.
A mountain of thousands of PPE containers were dumped near a nature reserve, leaving councillors ‘horrified’ and questioning whether they were discarded during the pandemic for being ‘substandard’
The unexpected heap was found in Calmore, bordering Testwood Lakes Nature Reserve and AFC Totton Football Club
Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: ‘This is a sickening level of waste. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been poured down the drain because of this Conservative government’s incompetence.
‘To rub salt in the wound, some of this money was wasted on dodgy contracts with Conservative cronies, the vast majority of which has still not been recovered.
‘The Health Secretary should come to Parliament and explain how so much taxpayers’ money was frittered away and what is being done to get it back.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Throughout the pandemic our priority was to ensure frontline staff had the PPE they needed with 27.1 billion items delivered.
‘We are aware of what stock remains and continue to make every effort to maximise the value to the taxpayer of purchased PPE.’
Officials have long been criticised for the PPE crisis.
Despite officials claiming the UK had sufficient stocks throughout the pandemic, NHS and social care staff told of not having access to any — forcing them to go without or use bin bags to create makeshift gowns.
The Government then spent huge sums for PPE at inflated prices.
A cross-party report from MPs in June 2022 hit out at DHSC for losing 75 per cent of the cash it had spent on PPE in the first year of the pandemic alone.
The Public Accounts Committee said its ‘haphazard purchasing strategy’ meant cash had been wasted on unusable products.
Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said at the time that PPE purchasing was ‘perhaps the most shameful episode the UK government response to the pandemic’.
The campaign group Good Law Project said the £9.9billion wasted on PPE is ‘more than it would cost to give every nurse in the NHS a 100 per cent bonus on their salary’.
NHS England employs around 370,000 nurses, who earn £37,800, on average.
MPs have compared the sums wasted on PPE to the £350million it costs to build a brand new hospital. Using that figure, the sum could have paid for 28 hospitals.
Firms that have cashed in on the Government’s rush to secure PPE include PPE Medpro, owned by Baroness Michelle Mone‘s husband Doug Barrowman.
The company made around £60million in profit on the deals and is being sued by the DHSC for £122million, as well as costs for ‘breach of contract and unjust enrichment’.
Lady Mone has admitted that she lied when denying having connections to the company, which was awarded contracts worth more than £200million.
Millions of gowns PPE Medpro provided were never used. However, the couple have said they met the terms of the contract and will ‘rigorously’ defend the claim.