A Liverpool councillor who also works in the NHS has expressed outrage at claims that the Government is burning up to £45 million worth of unusable personal protective equipment (PPE) bought during the pandemic every month.
Sam Gorst, who is also an NHS worker, said: “My biggest issue is that this PPE is now being destroyed at alarming rates with enormous costs to my residents, patients and fellow NHS staff; the taxpayers.”
Analysis from Labour suggests that up to 870 million unusable aprons are being burned each month, which came at a huge cost to the taxpayer when originally purchased.
Department of Heath and Social Care (DHSC) documents show that in total, the Government lost £8.7 billion in 2020/21 on PPE that was unusable, has passed its sell by date, or was overpriced.
Earlier this month it was revealed that storing unwanted PPE is costing the taxpayer an estimated £500,000 per day.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner requested an estimate of the storage costs and claimed the amount equates to £471,429 of taxpayers’ money being spent each day.
The party said government contracts with waste disposal companies burning the PPE cost the taxpayer an additional £35m.
Jonathan Marron, director general, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, DHSC, told the Public Accounts Committee in April the Government was working with ‘two leading waste providers’ and said: “We think we can shift around 15,000 pallets a month, either into recycling or into heat for waste.”
He could not say exactly how much would be burned for energy.
Labour is calling for an emergency budget to allow the National Crime Agency to investigate the billions of pounds lost to fraud and error, and help families with the cost of living.
‘Contempt for our health service’
Sam Gorst, councillor for the Cressington ward is part of the newly formed Liverpool Community Independents group led by former lord mayor of Liverpool Anna Rothery.
He said: "This government keeps making mistakes at the expense of those who are working on the frontline within the NHS.
“How can any government be so incompetent not to check the quality of life saving PPE? This is not just a small expense, this is millions of pounds which could potentially build new hospitals and put nurses through university, fee-free while the NHS is struggling with staffing levels.
“This government shows utter contempt for our health service. It is time to restore and revive our NHS to the principles and standards that Nye Bevan envisioned in 1948."
What do nurses in the region think?
Estephanie Dunn, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing in the North West said: “Nursing staff who are working in a chronically underfunded health and social care sector will find billions of pounds going up in smoke due to unusable PPE a terrible betrayal.
“Not only are they working in a sector which is crying out for investment, but many still want answers as to why they were left without adequate protection because of substandard or often lacking PPE during the height of the pandemic.
“Whilst the government can wax lyrical that the burning of unusable PPE can be used as heat from waste or recycled, there can be no positive spin on this failing. It has seen taxpayers’ billions that could have been ploughed into a service on its knees, whilst failing to undertake effective due diligence and bailing out those who created this situation.
“At the very least, we would expect to hear that the companies responsible for this appalling waste of taxpayers’ money and the risk to the health and safety of staff across health and social care have been removed from the preferred supplier list.”
What has the Department of Health and Social Care said about disposal of the PPE?
A DHSC spokesperson said: “Our priority throughout the pandemic has been saving lives, and we have delivered over 19.8 billion items of PPE to frontline staff to keep them safe.
“Having too much PPE was preferable to having too little in the face of an unpredictable and dangerous virus, given this was essential to keep our NHS open and protect as many people as possible.
“Now we are confident we have sufficient PPE to cover any future Covid demands, we are taking decisive action and reduced storage costs by 82 per cent since October 2020.”
Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for health and social care, said: “Had the Conservatives not been so wasteful with public funds, they would not need to raise taxes on working people during a cost-of-living crisis.”