Accounts reveal nearly £10 billion of personal protective equipment ‘written down’

Some £9.9 billion of the £13.6 billion spent on personal protective equipment (PPE) has been written off because it was unusable or its value has crashed since the pandemic.

The Department of Health and Social Care’s accounts published on Thursday said some items were defective or not suitable, while others will not be used before their expiry date.

The accountability report by the National Audit Office (NAO) said that the department plans to dispose of “nearly all” of its current PPE stock held in warehouses and containers.

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said the majority of the PPE recorded was of “insignificant value”.

He said that “ongoing efforts to detect, prevent and recover fraud must continue, improving public confidence that this drain on the public finances is being tackled effectively and efficiently”.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “As chancellor, Rishi Sunak threw away taxpayers’ money as if it were confetti, and has failed to get our money back. Sunak’s carelessness has cost our country dear.”

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper added: “This is a sickening level of waste. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been poured down the drain because of this Conservative government’s incompetence.”

Downing Street defended the losses by stressing the havoc that Covid-19 wreaked.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: “It’s important not to forget the circumstances in which the UK and countries globally found themselves during a pandemic when globally PPE was in extremely short supply.

“The costs as a result increased significantly and the Government took the decision very transparently to do everything possible to secure protective equipment for frontline health and care workers, that was right.”

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