Department of Health welcomes report from Audit Office

Date published: 01 March 2022

The Department of Health welcomes today’s report from the Northern Ireland Audit Office, highlighting the enormous challenges that faced the health service at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Today’s Audit Office details the scale of the work by the Business Services Organisation’s Procurement and Logistics Service (BSO PaLS) in securing PPE supplies for Northern Ireland’s health and social care system. Key points include:

* Over 2,000 potential leads for PPE were investigated, and 45 new suppliers engaged between January 2020 and April 2021, from whom over 600 million core PPE items have been ordered.

* The hugely intensified global competition for PPE resulted in supply shortage internationally as well as significant price increases.

* Northern Ireland’s health service incurred very high PPE costs early in the pandemic, with average pre-COVID prices increasing by 957 per cent for gowns, and 1,314 per cent for Type IIR masks.

* The total number of core PPE items delivered to healthcare providers increased, from 17 million in March 2020, to an average of 32 million items every four weeks between late April 2020 and May 2021.

* the total number of items required each month by the HSC and ICS sectors increased by 429 per cent, from the 6.3 million items used by HSC providers in 2019 to 33 million items between March 2020 and May 2021.

* by July 2021, between 47 weeks and 71 weeks stocks of various PPE items had been accumulated, greatly exceeding the target of 12 weeks’ supply.

The Department welcomes the tribute from the Comptroller and Auditor General to the efforts of those working on PPE procurement in the pandemic.

Notes to editors: 

  1. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email:
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  3. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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