£8.7bn on Pandemic PPE “Written Off” in Past Year

The government is facing fierce criticism after being accused of “wasting” billions on unusable personal protective equipment (PPE) and buying products at hugely at inflated prices, after a report revealed the enormous scale of losses.

The department of health’s annual accounts report revealed that £8.7bn spent on PPE last year had been written off – admitting to a “significant loss of value to the taxpayer”.

The annual report stated: “The department estimates that there has been a loss in value of £8.7bn of the £12.1bn of PPE purchased in 2020-21.”

An estimated £2.6bn was spent on PPE “not suitable for use in the NHS” and another £673m was spent on kit not suitable for use by anyone, the report discovered.

When the pandemic first broke countries around the world were clamouring for personal protective equipment (PPE), sending prices soaring, however, justifying the costs the government said: “we stand by the decision to purchase the items that we did”, saying the approach was “justified” to get PPE to the front line.

“We were acting in a highly competitive global market with many countries imposing export bans and obviously we were seeking to secure PPE for frontline clinicians,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

The spokesman gave the example of protective aprons, saying they were now worth about a third of the price they were selling at in the earlier stages of the pandemic.

He did however said it was important to ensure there were sufficient supplies at the time, adding that “97% of PPE ordered was suitable for use and we’re seeking to recover costs from suppliers wherever and whenever possible”.

The government has said it is now able to “mitigate” similar problems in the future by “massively increasing our onshore-based PPE production”.

Labour’s Pat McFadden, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “Along with the government’s laissez faire attitude to fraud, this will be particularly galling to hard working households wondering how they will pay the higher taxes the Chancellor is imposing this April.

Lib Dem health spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said: “With billions being lost to fraudsters, and now this, it’s plain to see that this Tory government cannot be trusted with our money.”

She added: “Sajid Javid must now come before parliament, explain how his government ended up throwing good money after bad and what he’s going to do to get his department in order.”