£1.4bn of PPE from UK COVID-19 deal destroyed

Published: 10-Jul-2024

The BBC has revealed that roughly £1.4bn worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been destroyed or written off in what is understood to be the most wasteful government deal of the COVID-19 pandemic

Figures obtained by the British news provider BBC revealed that at least 1.57 billion items of personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by the NHS supplier, Full Support Healthcare to the UK government, will never be used, despite being manufactured to the proper standard.

According to the BBC, Full Support Healthcare agreed to a £1.78bn deal in April 2020 to deliver face masks, respirators, eye protection, and aprons.

The PPE deal was the largest COVID-19 PPE order from a single supplier, accounting for 13% of the government’s total spend, the BBC found.

Delving deeper 

BBC Investigations utilised the Freedom of Information Act and made requests over six months to NHS Supply Chain, which manages the delivery of healthcare products.

The responses revealed that about £1.4 billion worth of Full Support Healthcare's PPE will not be used.

The figure includes 749 million items that had already been burned or destroyed and a further 825m were classified as excess stock and disposing of them or recycling them were “possible outcomes”.

Full Support Healthcare agreed to a £1.78bn deal in April 2020 to deliver face masks, respirators, eye protection, and aprons

Full Support provided 2.02 billion items of PPE. However, only 232 million items had been dispatched to the NHS or other care settings.

The deal is almost certainly the most wasteful of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the BBC.

Data compiled by data firm Tussell External, showed only one contract was more costly and it was awarded to a range of suppliers providing mixed services.

The Conservative government at the time previously estimated that £85m worth of PPE secured under the contract would not be used, which is approximately 6% of the true total.

The responses revealed that about £1.4bn worth of Full Support Healthcare's PPE will not be used

The BBC asked the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), responsible for purchasing and delivering COVID-19 PPE, to explain this disparity and why so much of the PPE was never used.

The BBC understands that at least £100m of public money has additionally been spent on storing and incinerating the excess stock since its purchase.

A DHSC spokesperson responded: “We do not recognise the £1.4bn quoted. Our position on PPE stock is set out in the department’s annual accounts as audited by the National Audit Office.”

DHSC: We do not recognise the £1.4bn quoted

“PPE was secured at the height of the pandemic, competing in an overheated global market where demand massively outstripped supply,” the DHSC spokesperson continued. 

“Nearly half of all the remaining stock was sold, recycled, or donated by the department. In line with our reduction of storage and disposal strategy unused items will be turned into energy from waste which will see the department recoup further costs,” DHSC spokesperson concluded. 

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