The Department of Health has wasted a total of £15bn on unused personal protective equipment, Covid tests and vaccines, prompting heavy criticism from the Whitehall spending watchdog.
The department spent £8.9bn during 2020-21 and another £6bn last year on such supplies, including masks and gowns for NHS staff that have proved unuseable and are now being burned.
The sums were revealed in the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) annual accounts and report for 2021-22, published on Thursday, and highlighted in a highly critical assessment issued by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Meg Hillier MP, the chair of the Commons’ public accounts committee, which oversees the NAO, said the accounts showed “extraordinary waste” by the DHSC. The money wasted was “another reminder to Whitehall about the vital importance of proper controls in public procurement, including during a crisis”.
The NAO said that the £6bn wasted in 2021/22 included a £3.5bn writedown on PPE, vaccines and medication to treat Covid which the DHSC had committed to buy but no longer plans to use.
The other £2.5bn was a writedown in the value of goods on which the DHSC originally spent £11.2bn.
Those supplies included £1.5bn of PPE, £5.8bn of Covid-detecting lateral flow tests and PCR tests procured by the test-and-trace programme, £2.7bn worth of vaccines to fight the virus and £1.2bn of various drugs that hospitals used to treat patients.
The DHSC’s report also disclosed that it expects to spend £319m storing and disposing of PPE which is no longer needed and is of such poor quality that it is no use to frontline staff anyway.
In March last year it was still spending £24m a month storing the infection-preventing equipment, the NAO said.
Labour seized on the DHSC’s admissions and highlighted that Rishi Sunak was the chancellor of the