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Poor planning meant we paid 1,300% MORE for PPE as prices rose

by Felica Loehr (2021-01-10)


Ministers squandered £10 billion on PPE because inadequate stockpiling forced them to pay over the odds, a damning report has found.

The Government's spending watchdog found that as global prices surged, up to 1,300 per cent extra was paid for Covid safety kit.

It meant that between February and July, the ministers spent £12.5 billion on masks, gowns and other equipment which would have cost just £2.5 billion had it been bought before the pandemic.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report criticised pandemic planning.

Ministers squandered £10 billion on PPE because inadequate stockpiling forced them to pay over the odds, a damning report has found.

Pictured: Boris Johnson holds a virtual press conference on November 23 to reveal Christmas coronavirus plans

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It found that at the start of the outbreak, the government had just 400 million items of PPE in its stockpile, when it ended up needing 32 billion. There was a particular shortage of gloves and aprons.

The report said the Government's scientific advisers on Sage predicted in late February that coronavirus could lead to a greater number of hospitalisations than a flu pandemic - but ministers delayed before deciding to build up the stockpile of PPE.

Even when supplies were ordered, they took weeks to arrive in the UK and to reach hospitals and care homes.

Less than 10 per cent of the PPE ordered had arrived by July, and at one point the NHS had just 3 per cent of the gowns it needed.
The last-ditch orders meant that mistakes were made. Shockingly, almost 200 million PPE items turned out to be unusable against coronavirus, wasting hundreds of millions of pounds.

Social care settings did not receive the help they required.

Care homes got just 10 per cent of the PPE they needed, while the NHS got 80 per cent. All in all, a total of 126 health and care workers died through exposure to Covid, although the NAO said it was not possible to say the deaths were linked to PPE shortages.

The Government's spending watchdog found that as global prices surged, the NHS had to pay up to 1,300 per cent extra for Covid safety kit.

Pictured: An NHS worker wears PPE while caring for a patient in the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: 'As PPE stockpiles were inadequate for the pandemic, Government needed to take urgent action to boost supplies.

'Once it recognised the gravity of the situation...

the price of PPE increased dramatically, and that alone has cost the taxpayer around £10billion.'

Labour MP Meg Hillier, chairman of the public accounts committee, accused ministers of being 'far too slow' to respond and said they were left paying ‘through the roof' for the frontline equipment.

‘The pandemic caught the NHS on the wrong foot,' she said. ‘The national stockpile was nowhere near big enough for a coronavirus outbreak - a consequence of the pandemic plans' fixation on influenza.

'The Government was far too slow to recognise how precarious the position was.

When the penny finally dropped, the Department of Health had to scramble to buy what was left as prices went through the roof.'