Cruel PPE profiteers are exploiting coronavirus crisis and cashing in on shortage of gowns and masks, probe reveals
- New businesses masquerading as healthcare suppliers are inflating prices by up to 1,000 per cent but these fakes rarely meet BSI standards making it unsafe
- NHS trusts and care home bosses across the country are battling to secure equipment needed by workers treating coronavirus patients
- Healthcare experts said they are being inundated with offers from supposed suppliers ‘trying to make a quick buck’
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Hundreds of ‘PPE pirates and profiteers’ are exploiting the coronavirus crisis and putting the lives of key workers at risk, a Daily Mail investigation has discovered. Health service leaders accused speculators of flooding the market for protective equipment such as face masks and gowns with vastly overpriced or counterfeit goods.
New businesses masquerading as healthcare suppliers are inflating prices by up to 1,000 per cent – as some desperate care homes are being forced to pay up to 10,000 per cent more for vital safety gear for their staff. NHS procurement managers are wasting hours of working time ruling out dubious suppliers from the black market, and have accused fraudsters of profiteering that ‘beggars belief’.
Medical staff wearing a high level of personal protective equipment (PPE)
It comes as the British Standards Institution (BSI) warned of a surge in fake safety certificates for protective gear since the start of the crisis as swindlers flog substandard equipment. NHS trusts and care home bosses across the country are battling to secure equipment needed by workers treating coronavirus patients.
Healthcare experts said they are being inundated with offers from supposed suppliers ‘trying to make a quick buck’. One established UK wholesaler said up to 95 per cent of products being offered by emerging businesses have turned out to be fake. The BSI reported a significant increase in fake safety certificates for PPE equipment, with large numbers now in circulation.
They are mostly for disposable face masks, but some have included gloves, protective clothing and eyewear. In most cases, they are used by scammers selling PPE in large quantities to companies such as care homes, wholesalers and retailers. Stephen Hill, from procurement body NHS Commercial Solutions, said he now spends most of his day trying to separate real suppliers from those trying to ‘exploit the taxpayer’.
The Mail found UK firms selling FFP2 masks for as little as £0.50 before the crisis for £11.95 each. The difficulties in securing PPE stocks were highlighted last week when a Government shipment from Turkey arrived three days late as hospitals ran out of equipment. Care bosses facing severe shortages have had to turn to private companies charging a premium for PPE due to ‘unreliable’ Government supplies.
Healthcare workers wearing personal protection equipment (PPE)
MHA, a charitable trust which runs 220 care homes, has had to spend £200,000 on masks at five times the usual price. Karl Silvester runs Awarding Care, which looks after 170 adults in their own homes in the Black Country area. He contacted a number of suppliers but found a box of gloves which normally sells at £2 to £3 each was priced at £15, while plastic aprons which were typically 2 pence an item were up to £2 a piece – a hike of almost 10,000 per cent.
Protective gear is still missing, say 31% of high-risk doctors
A third of doctors treating coronavirus patients in high-risk settings are still unable to get all the protective equipment they need, health leaders have warned.
The Royal College of Physicians said 31 per cent of those working in ‘aerosol-generating procedure’ areas – the parts of hospitals with the highest exposure to Covid-19 – could not always access long-sleeved disposable gowns and 37 per cent could not get full-face visors.
Ministers have come under mounting pressure over the Government’s ability to ensure frontline staff have the personal protection (PPE) they need.
In a survey of 2,129 college members, 27 per cent reported being unable to access the kit they needed for managing Covid-19 patients – compared with 22 per cent in a similar survey earlier this month.
But 91 per cent of those with symptoms of the virus said they were able to access testing – up from 31 per cent three weeks ago. A separate poll of GPs found that one in four had seen coronavirus face to face without adequate PPE.
Royal College of Physicians president Professor Andrew Goddard said: ‘This survey shows the reality of the situation facing hospital doctors.
‘The lack of PPE remains their biggest concern and it is truly terrible that supply has worsened over the past three weeks rather than improved.
‘Healthcare workers risking their lives couldn’t care less how many billion pieces of PPE have been ordered or supplied. If it isn’t there when they need it, they are in harm’s way.’