Michael Gove incorrect to say 97% of PPE procured 'fit-for-purpose'

2 February 2022
What was claimed

97% of the PPE secured was ready, fit-for-purpose and there on the front line

Our verdict

While this PPE may have been usable, it was not all fit for use in the health and care sector, nor on the front line.

“We did everything we could to get that equipment [PPE], 97% of the equipment that we secured was ready, fit-for-purpose and there on the front line”

On the Today programme, Michael Gove claimed that 97% of PPE procured during the pandemic was “ready, fit-for-purpose and there on the front line.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care told Full Fact that 97% of PPE items by item count, procured in the 2020/21 financial year, were usable.

However, this is incorrect because not all of these items were “fit-for-purpose” or “on the front line”.

The spokesperson told us the remaining 3% which wasn’t usable corresponds to the £0.67 billion of PPE described in the department’s annual report as equipment “which cannot be used, for instance because it is defective.”

This doesn’t include £2.6 billion of PPE which was deemed “not suitable for use within the health and social care sector”, and so couldn’t reasonably be described as being “fit-for-purpose” (insofar as it was procured for health and social care workers). 

Nor could it be described as “there on the front line”, as Mr Gove said. The department noted that while this equipment “might be suitable for other uses[...] these potential other uses are as yet uncertain”.

An additional £0.75 billion of PPE was said to be “in excess of the amount that will ultimately be needed.”

In total this amounts to a third of the £12.1 billion that was spent on pandemic-related PPE in England in the 2020/21 financial year. 

Mr Gove’s claim related to item count, rather than the value of items. It is not clear how many individual items of PPE this £4 billion equates to.

Full Fact approached Mr Gove for comment on his claim, but had not received a reply at time of publication.

Image courtesy of Chatham House

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After we published this fact check, we contacted Michael Gove to request a correction regarding this claim.

Mr Gove did not respond.

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