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Bill for wrong PPE adds up to salary-size bonuses for every nurse

Billions spent on unusable safety equipment in the pandemic – while nurses continue to face daily consequences of short-staffing
NHS procurement centre where supplies of PPE are stored

Billions spent on unusable safety equipment in the pandemic – while nurses continue to face daily consequences of short-staffing

Campaigners have hit out at the government for spending billions on unusable PPE, claiming money spent was enough to give every NHS nurse an average nursing salary as a bonus.

Figures published on Monday in the Department of Health and Social Care annual report reveal ministers spent:

  • £670 million of public money on PPE unfit to use anywhere ‘for instance as it is defective’.
  • £2.6 billion on PPE unsuitable for health and social care.
  • £4.7 billion paying inflated prices for PPE.

Billions spent on unusable safety equipment in the pandemic – while nurses continue to face daily consequences of short-staffing

NHS procurement warehouse where supplies of PPE are stored
Supplies of PPE at an NHS procurement warehouse Picture: Alamy

Campaigners have hit out at the government for spending billions on unusable PPE, claiming money spent was enough to give every NHS nurse an average nursing salary as a bonus.

Figures published on Monday in the Department of Health and Social Care annual report reveal ministers spent:

  • £670 million of public money on PPE unfit to use anywhere ‘for instance as it is defective’.
  • £2.6 billion on PPE unsuitable for health and social care.
  • £4.7 billion paying inflated prices for PPE.
  • £750 million buying PPE that will not be needed before its sell by date.

‘Huge waste of money must be investigated by COVID public inquiry’

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said the ‘huge waste of money’ could have been used to fund an inflation-busting pay rise for nurses and other health workers.

‘This makes harrowing reading for nurses and countless other health and social care staff who struggled to access safety kit,’ she said.

‘These employees continue to face the consequences of underfunding, poor staffing and heavy workloads. Such a huge waste of money must be investigated by the public inquiry into COVID.

‘The government should be investing precious resources in workers ​and services, not squandering the cash.’

Cost of unusable PPE could be even higher

The not-for-profit Good Law Project found that between April 2020 and August 2021, £677.6 million was spent on storing excess PPE. This continues to cost the taxpayer £500,000 a day, the campaign group discovered though a freedom of information request.

The organisation said the combined spending amounts to £9.9 billion – more than it would cost to give every nurse in the NHS a 100% bonus of an average nursing salary.

Chief executive Jo Maugham said the government’s spending was a ‘staggering’ waste, with much of the unused PPE now destined to be destroyed.

Meanwhile, your national insurance is about to go up

The figures come as the government plans to hike National Insurance by 1.25% in April in a bid to tackle the NHS patient backlog and social care crisis, costing a Band 5 nurse on £25,556 a year around an extra £200 per year.

DHSC defended the figures in the report and said they had acquired the PPE in a highly competitive export market and delivered 17.5 billion items of PPE to the frontline.

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘The supply of these vital items helped keep our NHS open at a moment of national crisis to deliver a world-class service to the public. We are seeking to recover costs from suppliers wherever possible.’


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