Government spent £2.2m on ventilators NHS said were unsafe during pandemic

The Government spent £2.2m on ventilators NHS medics said were unsafe during the pandemic, the spending watchdog has revealed.

Medics asked 750 to be withdrawn after ministers paid 50 percent over the odds for foreign-supplied machines.

An audit report found they also spent tens of millions of pounds on British designs which weren't used.

Thousands of ventilators remain sat in warehouses due to lack of demand as ministers were said to have prioritised "speed over cost".

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the government was forced to buy ventilators from new suppliers on world markets which cost £30,100 instead of the average £20,000 from established NHS suppliers.

It added that ministers spent £113million on design costs, components and factory capacity for ventilators they did not buy because they were unviable or were not needed.

The report said they spent £569 million on ventilators overall through programmes set up by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Cabinet Office.

Most of these new ventilators are "being held in reserve" and: "As at September 16 only around 2,150 mechanical ventilator units acquired through the programmes had been dispatched to the NHS.

"This is because the anticipated demand did not materialise. The remaining units, which were largely purchased in case of increased demand in future waves of Covid-19, are stored in warehouses, including the Ministry of Defence’s facility at Donnington, as a central reserve."

The NAO said: "Inevitably, given the approach the departments took, the overall costs of both programmes are higher than we, or the departments, would expect to see in normal times.

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"However, both departments maintained sufficient record of their programmes’ rationale, the key spending decisions they took and the information they had to base those on.

"They also put in place effective programme management, controlled costs where they could and recovered some of their committed spending once it became apparent that fewer ventilators were needed than they had originally believed."

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: "The Government acted quickly to secure the thousands of ventilators it thought it may need to safeguard public health.

"In the event far fewer ventilators were required than was anticipated during the first phase of the pandemic, resulting in a stockpile that may be needed for future peaks in clinical need.

"As with all aspects of its pandemic response, the Government should ensure that the learning from this experience is used to enhance its contingency planning for future public health emergencies."

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