The Government has been accused of “extreme negligence” after it has emerged that almost one in five items in its stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) are not usable, with billions of pounds having gone down the drain.
A written parliamentary question tabled by Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Wendy Chamberlain, has revealed that the Department for Health and Social Care has identified 3.4 billion units of PPE as “potential excess stock”. This would represent £2.2 billion of expenditure on items without demand.
Of 6.96 billion items of PPE that are not currently provided to frontline services, 1.2 billion of these (17.2%) are deemed to be not fit for use. These items were purchased for £458 million.
Meanwhile, storage of all PPE - usable or otherwise - is costing the taxpayer £4.5m a week, or the equivalent of £642,857 a day.
It comes after the revelations that one million counterfeit face masks were sent out for use in NHS hospitals despite warnings about their authenticity, raising questions over the systems and checks in place both during the procurement process and in assessing the quality of PPE.
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain said:
“This is extreme negligence on an industrial scale. The Government is burning a hole in the pocket of the taxpayer through its wastage of personal protective equipment, at a time when those pockets don’t run deep.
“The Government has misspent billions of pounds of public money on vital PPE for frontline staff that is either inadequate or will never be used. This is carelessness of the highest magnitude.
“Awarding contracts to chums unlawfully, frontline workers wearing bin bags and dodgy masks, and billions wasted - this is merely the latest sorry chapter in this Conservative Government’s dismal record.
“Ministers have this string of damning failures to answer for when the Covid inquiry comes to town. In the interim, it’s high time they get a grip on this mess once and for all and come up with a plan to ensure excess stock doesn’t go to waste.”
Note: although most NHS services in Wales have been devolved, procurement policy remains at Westminster.