Health minister claims contract yet to be awarded has been ‘procured’—then denies she said it

15 July 2022
What was claimed

The government has procured a contract worth £30 million to provide surge capacity for the ambulance service during periods of increased pressure, and that “is there, should we need it”.

Our verdict

NHS England says this contract hasn’t been awarded yet. Since we first published this fact check, health minister Maria Caulfield has clarified that “we have procured a contract which is just being finalised”.

What was claimed

Maria Caulfield told Parliament earlier this week that the government “are procuring” the ambulance service support contract.

Our verdict

Ms Caulfield can clearly be heard saying the government “have procured” the contract in a Parliament TV recording, and this is also reflected in the official parliamentary record.

In terms of urgency, we have procured a contract for an auxiliary ambulance service with a total value of £30 million, which will provide national surge capacity if needed to support the ambulance response during periods of increased pressure. So that is there, should we need it.

Health minister Maria Caulfield claimed on Wednesday that a contract worth £30 million had been procured to provide surge support to the ambulance service “during periods of increased pressure”. 

She told Parliament: “So that is there, should we need it.” 

However, NHS England has said that the contract is “yet to be awarded”, as first reported by the Health Service Journal

It’s not absolutely clear whether this contradicts Ms Caulfield, who may or may not have meant the contract was “awarded” when she said it was “procured”, and since we first published this check Ms Caulfield has clarified her comments, as we outline below. But saying “so that is there, should we need it” may have suggested to some that the contract for extra support was in place, which is not the case. 

And in response to a tweet from Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord highlighting this discrepancy, Ms Caulfield then claimed: “I said we are procuring a contract worth £30 million for extra ambulance capacity.”

This is not what Ms Caulfield said, however.

Ms Caulfield can clearly be heard saying “have procured” rather than “are procuring” in the Parliament TV recording of the debate. Hansard, the official parliamentary record, also quotes Ms Caulfield as saying “have procured”, though there are some minor differences in how it records the rest of Ms Caulfield’s quote.

Since we first published this article, Ms Caulfield has given some further detail about the status of the contract.

She told Full Fact: “I can’t comment on the detail of the contract at the moment for commercially sensitive reasons but it is set to go live at the end of the month.” 

In response to our tweet sharing this fact check, she tweeted: “We have procured a contract which is just being finalised and an announcement will be made very soon. Surely expanding ambulance provision is a good thing when services are under so much pressure.”

Image courtesy of Parliament TV

Update 15 July 2022

This article has been updated to include Ms Caulfield’s comments.

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