The cost of shields used so far come to £423 per piece – even though they can be purchased online for less than £1.
A former Tory councillor was given a £120m government contract for personal protective equipment (PPE) which is now lying unused because of concerns about its quality, it has been revealed.
Steve Dechan a former Conservative councillor received a £120 million government contract for face shields
Dechan first made headlines as a Remain campaigner at the 2016 EU Referendum, before being elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Stroud, where his then-struggling medical supplies firm Platform 14 was based.
Platform 14, a small medical device company based in an industrial building next to lock-up garages in Stroud. Founded in August 2017, it was £485,000 in debt a year before the covid outbreak, with eight employees and a grand total of £145 in the bank.
He defected to the Tories in 2018, after deciding that they would do more to help local businesses. And when the coronavirus pandemic struck, that prediction came true beyond his wildest dreams.
Then came Covid, and an extraordinary series of events that led to a global scramble for personal protective equipment (PPE).
Although his main business was supplying pain-management devices, Dechan had also been selling small quantities of PPE for about five years. A contact in Hong Kong secured enough of the stuff to warrant the £276m contract, via a firm in Southern China.
Dechan had his offer to supply protective equipment from China fast-tracked through the government’s controversial “VIP” lane. The government then invoked emergency rules to directly award him a series of contracts.
The Sunday Times newspaper reports that fewer than 1 in 400 of the face shields procured by the company on behalf of the government have been used, because the regulator does not believe they meet the right standards.
The original order for 120 million shields has delivered just 274,200 into the NHS supply chain, representing 0.23 per cent of the overall stock.
It means the shields used so far have cost the equivalent of £423 each, despite similar ones being available to buy online for less than £1.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has to authorise all PPE that is not CE marked (an EU designation that means it complies with European standards).
But the regulator said: “None of the documentation provided to HSE indicated the product to be CE marked.”
The regulator wrote to officials in September last year saying the shields “cannot enter the NHS supply chain” and repeatedly refused to approve them.
But in February, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) stepped in and directly approved the face shields, with 274,000 used in the NHS so far. At the height of the pandemic last year, none could be used.
Dechan told The Sunday Times that the “application and usage [of the shields] is entirely a matter for the DHSC”.
He said they had met “the required standards” and added: “As an NHS supplier for nearly 10 years, we will continue to provide innovative solutions and support trusts and patients across the UK.”
Dechan is the rule, not the exception.
The reports come amid concern about the government’s procurement during the pandemic. The National Audit Office (NAO) found that firms referred to the VIP lane were 10 times more likely to have been given government contracts to supply PPE.
The National Audit Office (NAO) found that suppliers with links to Tory politicians were ten times more likely to be awarded contracts than those who applied to the Department of Health and Social Care.
The NAO said the government’s procurement efforts during the coronavirus crisis “diminished public transparency”, and accused officials of failing to meet “standards that the public sector will always need to apply if it is to maintain public trust”.
Another report released by the Commons Public Accounts Committee on Sunday said that the government is still wasting vast amounts of money on PPE that is “not fit for purpose” a year and a half into the pandemic.
Official figures show that overall nearly 7 per cent of all items purchased by the DHSC have failed quality checks, while ministers are spending £6.7m every week to keep the items stored.
An eye-watering 2.1 billion items have already been found unsuitable for use in medical settings, and 10,000 shipping containers are still to be unpacked.
The same committee also warned of “significant financial risks for decades to come”, with the estimated lifetime cost of all the government’s Covid measures reaching £372bn in May 2021.
Hundreds of firms were fast-tracked for lucrative potential Covid-19 contracts after tips from ministers and MPs as £18bn was handed out under emergency rules, a damning report reveals today.
The way procurement and transparency rules were ripped up in the scramble for equipment – with some deals secured by Conservative allies – is sharply criticised by the spending watchdog.
Its report confirms a secret “high-priority lane” for favoured firms, with at least 144 put forward from ministers’ private offices as MPs suggested “a possible manufacturer in their constituency”.
In laymans terms, public money is being legally stolen to feed the greed of the Olicharchy.