The government is planning to destroy thousands of items of lifesaving medical equipment that it bought during the pandemic after failing to find a need for it, the Mail on Sunday can reveal.

MPs and Peers last night branded the scale of waste ‘astonishing’ and said the disposal of ‘such huge volumes’ is a ‘kick in the teeth to the taxpayer’.

The stockpile of ventilators, patient monitors, humidifiers and syringe pumps was built up at vast expense as part of the UK’s ‘strategic reserve’.

But it has since been left languishing in warehouses, where it is racking up storage costs and risks growing obsolete.

The Department of Health and Social Care claims it has tried to sell or give away as much of the equipment as possible, both in the UK and abroad.

The government is planning to destroy thousands of items of lifesaving medical equipment that it bought during the pandemic after failing to find a need for it

The government is planning to destroy thousands of items of lifesaving medical equipment that it bought during the pandemic after failing to find a need for it

The stockpile of ventilators, patient monitors, humidifiers and syringe pumps was built up at vast expense as part of the UK's 'strategic reserve'

The stockpile of ventilators, patient monitors, humidifiers and syringe pumps was built up at vast expense as part of the UK’s ‘strategic reserve’

But in an answer to a parliamentary question on the issue, health minister Lord Markham admitted 13,189 items have already been destroyed and 15,096 are ‘scheduled for destruction’.

Meanwhile not a single piece has been donated to medical charities for use overseas, his response adds.

Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, who submitted the parliamentary question, told this paper: ‘I was astonished that the Department of Health is disposing of the entire Covid Reserve, including destroying a great deal of equipment, without so far donating a single item to medical charities.

‘You only need to look around the world to see the enormous need.’ Responding to the question, Lord Markham said the ‘reserve’ of equipment was built up ‘in response to shortages in key respiratory equipment’ and ‘in anticipation of increased demand during the pandemic’.

But he adds: ‘Over the last two years, the National Health Service has not needed to access the reserve to manage increases in the numbers of respiratory patients.

‘With lack of demand from the NHS and increasing costs associated with storing and maintaining ageing equipment, the decision was taken to close the reserve by March 2024.’ 

He published a table listing all of the equipment, detailing how much of it was in stock as of December last year and what has happened or is likely to happen to it by the end of March.

The stock included 9,178 mechanical ventilators, which were in high demand during the pandemic.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was unable to say how much it had spent buying or storing the equipment nor how much it has made so far by selling it.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons’ public accounts committee, said: ‘When the committee looked at the ventilator programme we recognised the pressure to secure what we all then thought – in March 2020 – would be essential equipment.

‘But we were also clear that it needed to be used or donated where possible.

‘This quiet disposal of such huge volumes of equipment is a kick in the teeth to the taxpayer.’ 

The PAC has previously heard how ministers planned to burn 15,000 pallets of unusable PPE per month to generate energy.

The fuel haul included visors, gowns and gloves worth up to £4billion.

The Committee is now expected to grill officials about the latest disposal of medical equipment during a hearing next month.

In response to further enquiries by the Mail on Sunday, the Department of Health and Social Care said over 135,000 devices have been issued to the NHS since 2020, with a further 4,000 donated as international aid including packages to Peru, India, Nepal and Ukraine.

It said officials are ‘utilising a range of disposal methods’ for equipment that is no longer needed, including manufacturer buyback, overseas aid donation, auction and disassembly for recycling.

The Public Accounts Committee has previously heard how ministers planned to burn 15,000 pallets of unusable PPE per month to generate energy

The Public Accounts Committee has previously heard how ministers planned to burn 15,000 pallets of unusable PPE per month to generate energy

A spokesperson said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, the UK identified and secured life-saving equipment at a time when there was huge global demand.

‘We are now taking action to save taxpayers’ money by reducing storage costs for excess stock.

‘We make every effort to put as much of this equipment to good use by donating to NHS trusts or overseas – including to Ukraine – as well as selling, repurposing and recycling where possible.

‘In line with our environmental commitments, we are operating a zero-to-landfill policy for any disposals which are no longer needed by the NHS and cannot be repurposed.’

Post source: Daily mail

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