Govt spends £1million a day storing PPE in ports as NHS still suffers shortages

The Government has been paying more than a £1m a day to store PPE in a port after the NHS ran out of warehouse space, it has emerged.

Some 10,000 shipping containers filled with masks, aprons and gloves have been kept at Felixstowe quayside in Suffolk, the Telegraph reports.

Taxpayers have been picking up the huge long-term storage fees despite calls for more PPE for front-line workers, sources said.

The mountain of gear has built up to fill five Olympic sized swimming pools since August.

Containers are said to normally stay at the port owned by Hutchison UK for around 4.5 days.

But any there for longer than two weeks is charged £47.38 per day, documents seen by the Telegraph show.

That comes to more than £520,000 for the space to store 11,000 PPE containers stored there as of last week.

Shipping companies are also said to charge rental fees for containers that are not returned empty within a certain time frame – usually around four days.

Experts said these were usually at least as high as the port rental charges, and could be considerably higher – up to £75 per day per 20ft container.

At that rate the daily bill to the taxpayer could have been as high as £1.3million a day when the backlog was at its worst.

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A Government spokesman said: "We have a storage network in place that lets us access and manage our PPE supply to meet demand throughout the winter.

"The amount of PPE held on quay at Felixstowe is already coming down rapidly, from nearly 7,000 containers in late October to under 4,000 now."

Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, Unite's national officer for health, said: "We are calling for the Government's PPE 'tsar'. Lord Deighton, to urgently explain why there are continuing logjams in the supply chain. Our members on the NHS and social care frontline are still reporting difficulties getting the necessary PPE nine months after the first lockdown."

Hutchison UK has declined to comment. A statement on the Felixstowe port website states that it has had "a high number of slow-moving containers of PPE occupying storage space".

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