The Westminster Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said England’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) lost 75% of the £12 billion it spent on PPE in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic to inflated prices and faulty kit. This included £4 billion worth which could not be used because it did not meet NHS standards.
However the Stormont Department of Health said it did not have the same problem. “The Health and Social Care system in Northern Ireland currently does not have any stock which requires disposal,” it told the News Letter.
“All stock is being effectively managed between central logistics and all Trusts in Northern Ireland, and stock is being distributed across the system, based on those which have the most recent use by dates set by manufacturers.
“There is no stock in Northern Ireland which does not meet the clinical standards and usability standards for the staff on the frontline.”
But regarding the situation in England, MPs also raised concerns about “inappropriate”, unauthorised payoffs made by health bodies to staff, warning that more of these are likely to happen amid the large-scale restructuring of the NHS.
During the pandemic, three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) paid special severance payments without the required approval from the Treasury, the committee said.
PAC chairwoman Dame Meg Hillier said: “The story of PPE purchasing is perhaps the most shameful episode in the UK Government response to the pandemic. At the start of the pandemic health service and social care staff were left to risk their own and their families’ lives due to the lack of basic PPE.
“In a desperate bid to catch up, the Government splurged huge amounts of money, paying obscenely inflated prices and payments to middlemen in a chaotic rush, during which they chucked out even the most cursory due diligence.
“This has left us with massive public contracts now under investigation by the National Crime Agency or in dispute because of allegations of modern slavery in the supply chain.