Pharmaceuticals Direct: Contracts

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 19th November 2021.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the value for money to the public purse of contracts awarded to Pharmaceuticals Direct since February 2020; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what the basis was for awarding Pharmaceuticals Direct a £102.6 million contract to provide 20 million FFP3 masks, at £5.13 per unit; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what the average price paid per unit was, by Government, for a FFP3 mask in June 2020; and what the average price paid per unit was for FFP3 masks as part of the £102.6 million contract awarded to Pharmaceuticals Direct in the summer of 2020; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, for what reasons his Department agreed a £102.6 million deal with Pharmaceuticals Direct for FFP3 face masks subsequent to correspondence with alternative suppliers who were told that further supplies were not needed as Government had sufficient supplies in place; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

All offers of personal protective equipment (PPE) were subject to the same assurance process which selected suppliers based on the product type, clinical acceptability, price, forecasted delivery dates, volume and financial standing. The overall basis for awarding contracts, including the value for money consideration, involved a balanced judgement of all these factors. While the price per unit is a factor, FFP3 masks require FIT testing onto the wearer which is required by law. Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd offered a mask which was already in use within the National Health Service and one which healthcare workers had provided a positive evaluation of.

Information on the unit price of PPE ordered under each contract is commercially sensitive. While the unit price for the FFP3 masks under this contact were higher, the Department considered the urgent need for the product; the product had previously passed FIT testing and was in use within the health system; and that other tried and tested FFP3 masks were not available from other European sources at the time.

The demand and supply signals for PPE varied on a daily basis in light of infection rates within the United Kingdom. The availability of product also fluctuated regularly due to competition over manufacturing capacity and scarce supply. The Government supported the UK Make programme for UK suppliers to develop manufacturing capacity for PPE at the end of 2020. The Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd contract provided a clinically approved product before UK Make suppliers were able to distribute their products.

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