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.”
Around £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.
Labour said this level of “waste” destroyed Conservative claims to be “careful stewards” of taxpayers’ money, while the Liberal Democrats said the losses showed the Tories “cannot be trusted with our money”.
As well the huge sums lost to unsuitable PPE which could not be used by the NHS, another £750m was spent on excess items that were not used before their expiry date.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) attributed the biggest losses to the value of its remaining stock being slashed by £4.7bn as the price of PPE dropped.
At the start of the pandemic, prices for protective equipment rose sharply as countries clamoured to get hold of items such as face masks.
The accounts further reveal that the DHSC expects that equipment that was scheduled to be delivered after the end of the financial year will lose £1.2bn in value.
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.”
Earlier this week health minister Edward Argar confirmed that the government had bought PPE from Pestfix worth £169m, and Ayanda at £145m, that was not “not currently available” to the NHS “due to technical and quality issues”.
It comes as a World Health Organisation study on PPE waste pointed to “unnecessary” use in the UK, particularly with gloves.
A DHSC spokesperson for the health department said the department delivered over 17.5 billion items of PPE to the frontline – with 97 per cent of PPE ordered being suitable for use.
“Our absolute priority throughout this unprecedented global pandemic has always been saving lives,” said the spokesperson.
“The supply of these vital items helped keep our NHS open at a moment of national crisis to deliver a world-class service to the public. We are seeking to recover costs from suppliers wherever possible.”
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