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SHAMEFUL government plans to burn £4 billion of unusable personal protective equipment (PPE) to generate power have been slammed as a “toxic waste” of taxpayers’ money.
The public accounts committee (PAC) said that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) lost 75 per cent of the £12bn it spent on PPE in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic to inflated prices and faulty kit.
This included £4bn worth which could not be used because it did not meet NHS standards.
MPs also raised concerns about “inappropriate” and 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 paid special severance payments without the required approval from the Treasury, the committee said.
PAC chairwoman Dame Meg Hillier said the DHSC has done little to “put its house in order” after wasting “huge amounts” of public money.
The Labour MP said: “The story of PPE purchasing is perhaps the most shameful episode in the UK government response to the pandemic.
“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.”
The PAC has urged the DHSC to clarify its plan to dispose of unusable and excess PPE, including predicted costs to the Treasury and to the environment.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive Pat Cullen said the burning of PPE was a “galling” reminder that the DHSC’s approach to procurement may also have cost nurses’ lives.
She said: “Our members will find this galling.
“It is a painful reminder of the worst of the pandemic — inadequate or wasteful PPE.
“Sending billions of pounds up in smoke when NHS and care services are struggling will be hard for them to comprehend.”
Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “This absolutely damning report exposes the shameful and toxic waste of Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
“Ministers have been carelessly burning taxpayers’ money by the billion as unusable gowns, goggles, and gloves literally go up in flames.”
The DHSC has been contacted for comment.
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