Health Department report states government bought unusable PPE at inflated prices.
The British government spent £12.1 billion ($16.3 billion) on personal protective equipment (PPE) as the Covid-19 pandemic raged between March 2020 and March 2021. However, £8.7 billion of this splurge has since been written off as a loss, due to defective and unsuitable equipment, and the government buying at above-market prices.
The Department of Health’s shocking loss – equivalent to 5% of its entire annual budget – was revealed in its Annual Report and Accounts, published on Monday. The report, covering the March 2020 to March 2021 financial year, revealed that the government spent a whopping £12.1 billion on PPE during this period.
“Most of these items were bought at speed early in the pandemic, at a time when there was a surge in demand in other countries and a temporary decline in global supply,” the report states. Once this “seller’s market” evened out, the government had overpaid for this PPE by £4.7 billion.
Overpaying was not the government’s only blunder. By September, the country had imported such a glut of PPE that crates and containers were backed up at ports, leaving the government to pay £115 million in port fees. Even now, containers of unused PPE remain literally piled up at storage sites around the country.
When the equipment finally reached its users, not everything was up to scratch. Some £2.6 billion worth of this equipment was deemed “not suitable for use within the health and social care sector,” the department report said. A further £670 million worth of PPE could not be used due to defects, and £750 million worth was ordered in excess and will now go unused.