What will happen to the billions-of-pounds worth of left-over PPE?

Infection prevention and control quickly became of paramount importance as we ran head first into the pandemic back in Spring 2020. The government were quick to strike deals to provide our NHS and social care sector with personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to fight against the incoming COVID pandemic.

The Department of Health and Social Care have today published their annual report for 2020/21 in a 349-page document, outlining performance, accountability, and finances through the last annum.

Within the report the DHSC breakdown where and how the £12.1 billion worth of PPE bought in 2020/21 was used.

The report found that these has been a ‘loss in value’ at an estimated cost of £8.7 billion of the original purchase price, £4.7 billion of that is due to market value depreciation.

The remaining £8 billion is due to the following:

  • £0.67bn cannot be used or is defective.
  • £2.6bn is not suitable for use within the health and social care sector.
  • £0.75bn in excess stock.

Over two and a half billion pounds of PPE has been deemed unsuitable for use within health and social care. The DHSC have stated that whilst these materials are not suitable for use in the health sector due to them being below the FFP2 WHO recommended standard, they “might be suitable for other uses (although these potential other uses are as yet uncertain)”.

A further £750 million worth of PPE stock is considered to be in excess of the amount needed, an anticipated result due to the overbuy approach agreed by the government at the height of the pandemic.

The report also discloses figures from March 31st, 2021, which highlights the 7.5 billion items which are being held across 16,000 shipping containers at UK ports and a further 1.6 billion held in storage in China.

Weaknesses with the Department’s Inventory Management system meant that end of year stock counts was not completed, something the report says is due to ‘rapid increase in COVID-related procurement’.

From this year onwards, responsibility for managing the supply of PPE will be transferred to Supply Chain Coordination Limited (SCCL) who will be tasked with selling, donating and recycling any remaining PPE in order to reduce the amount of stock held in storage, which is currently costing the government £500,000 a day. The DHSC will still remain involved due to the scale of the issue. 

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