Almost half a billion pounds wasted on unnecessary PPE at the start of the pandemic could have paid for a new NHS hospital, Parliament said today.
Department of Health officials have admitted £461million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on masks, gowns and gloves to protect medical staff and Covid patients which have proven unsuitable for use. ‘use.
In a toast by deputies on the Public Accounts Committee, Jonathan Marron, a senior department official, claimed the sum was “a fairly small proportion” of the overall figure spent on protective equipment during the pandemic.
But Nick Smith, the Labor MP for Blaenau Gwent in South Wales, said it was more than was spent on the new £350million hospital in his constituency.
‘Can I just confirm one of the points from the latest information. You told me there were 1.1 billion items identified as unfit for any use,” Mr Smith said.
“And then on the page you counted them up and their value, as I understand it, is almost £461m. Is it correct?’
Mr. Marron, director general of the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities at the DoH, replied: “That’s correct.”
Mr Smith continued: “The last urgent care center hospital built in Gwent for a nation of around 600,000 people – and it’s brand new – cost £350m so it’s more than the cost of a brand new hospital.”
Mr Marron said: “It is clear that we have purchased a very large number of PPE and used huge quantities – 19.8 billion items of PPE distributed to health and social care so far. at the end of last month.”
“So these are just huge numbers for the volumes we need to keep patients safe.”
Jonathan Marron (right), from the Department of Health and Social Care, admitted that £461 million of personal protective equipment purchased since the start of the pandemic was unusable. Nick Smith (left), the Labor MP for Blaenau Gwent in South Wales, said the staggering amount was more than was spent on the new £350million hospital in his constituency.
Mr Marron said the amount would have been considered significant “in normal times” but was not particularly high given the difficulties officials faced in obtaining PPE at the start of the pandemic.
He said: “It’s 3% of the total we bought. It is a very small proportion.
“Normally I think that’s a very high number, but if we go back to when we bought the PPE, the market conditions, the real difficulties of buying.”
Government fraud investigators are looking into PPE contracts, MPs have said
Government fraud investigators are looking into contracts to supply the NHS with PPE during the pandemic, health officials said today.
Giving evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Jonathan Marron, the chief executive of the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, said they had ‘concerns’ over 176 contracts worth a total of 3 £.9 billion.
He said the actual amount of equipment involved was worth £2.7billion – with concerns ranging from the quality of kit supplied to the performance of the contractor.
While some can be resolved through mediation and a trade agreement, he said others may require a “more legal process”.
“We work very, very closely with our internal fraud teams and the wider anti-fraud authorities,” he said.
“That is part of what we are looking at, as to how we might resolve these disputes. All options are on the table.
DHSC permanent secretary Sir Chris Wormald said the level of alleged fraud was no higher than for other government contracts.
“It is not uncommon to be in dispute over certain contracts. Some of them will be resolved entirely out of court, some of them will go to the other end of the spectrum where we believe there has been wrongdoing,” he told the committee.
“Contract fraud is a fact of life, regardless of the circumstances. It would be amazing if this were the only large set of government contracts in which there was no fraud.
“What we haven’t seen is that this set of contracts is more susceptible to fraud than average.”
Ministers spent £14.8billion securing PPE in the first year of Covid, according to annual Department of Health accounts. But around £8.7bn were written off, either because they were unusable or had passed their expiry date.
During the same committee hearing, health officials admitted that the VIP channels used to offer PPE contracts to favored companies would no longer be used.
Sir Chris Wormald, the chief civil servant in charge of the Department of Health, said No 10 would not use similar ‘high priority’ pathways for purchasing health equipment in future.
The High Court ruled in January that contracts awarded to two companies using the expressways were unlawful.
Some 193 PPE suppliers were referred to the Department of Health through so-called ‘VIP’ channels, which prioritized companies suggested by MPs and skipped the normal procurement process.
Of those, 51 won 115 contracts worth billions of pounds, leading to accusations of cronyism after it emerged associates of Tory MPs were the beneficiaries of the scheme.
The former health secretary’s neighbor Matt Hancock was among those who benefited from the contracts.
Sir Chris insisted that checks on companies were the same regardless of which route companies offered contracts.
But when asked if the Department of Health would use similar programs in the future, the official admitted he would abandon the system.
He said, “Well, given that we lost in court for one part, no. We would keep the same basic structure.
“So would we have a sorting system where, among a large number of offers, we would try to identify the most promising and make them first?” Yes, we would. We would keep this sorting.
“Would we do this the same way we did the high priority lane? No, we wouldn’t.
A National Audit Office report in the first year of the pandemic slammed the government for mishandling large quantities of PPE and overpaying.
It took “a long time” for much of the PPE to arrive and there were distribution issues which saw “many frontline workers” experience shortages.
The government paid “very high prices” and the “hundreds of millions of pounds” bought in the first year will not be used for their original purpose, the report says.
Sir Chris Wormald (left), the chief civil servant in charge of the Department of Health, said No10 would not use similar ‘high priority’ routes for the purchase of health equipment in future. Right: Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond
Meanwhile, MailOnline revealed last month that more than a billion government-purchased face shields were in warehouses and shipping containers, although only 123 million had been distributed.
SAGE advisers have warned that visors are unlikely to offer ‘any protection’ against Covid transmission in July 2020, with the government placing its last order for visors at the end of June 2020.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Our priority throughout the pandemic has been to save lives and we have delivered over 19.1 billion items of PPE to frontline staff to ensure their safety.
“Having too much PPE was preferable to having too little in the face of an unpredictable and dangerous virus, as this was essential to keeping our NHS open and protecting as many people as possible.
“Now we are confident we have enough PPE to cover all future Covid demands, we are taking decisive action to save up to £93m of taxpayers’ money a year by reducing storage costs excess inventory.”