RMT exaggerates money ‘wasted’ on PPE and NHS Test and Trace

22 June 2022
What was claimed

You could fund the NHS for years, give every low-paid worker in Britain an above inflation pay rise and close every food bank in the UK just from the money wasted on PPE and NHS Test and Trace.

Our verdict

This is not true. The total amount spent by the government on PPE and NHS Test and Trace during the pandemic was less than one year of NHS funding.

We could fund the NHS for years, give every low-paid worker in Britain an above inflation pay rise and close every food bank in the UK just from the money you wasted on PPE and track and trace!

In a widely shared tweet, which has since been shared on Facebook, the RMT union exaggerated the amount of money “wasted on PPE and track and trace” claiming it could pay for the NHS for years. The tweet was a reply to the former health secretary Matt Hancock, who had said that the current rail strikes would cause disruption to the NHS.

In 2020/21 the UK government spent £223 billion on health and social care in total. In the year prior to the pandemic it spent £171 billion, of which £124 billion was spent out of the NHS England budget alone.

So funding the NHS “for years” would cost hundreds of billions of pounds, before we even consider the cost of pay rises for low-paid workers, which potentially amounts to more than a million people depending on how you define “low pay”, or the cost of closing food banks, which the RMT claimed could also be paid for out of money “wasted on PPE and track and trace”. (We’re not sure how much money would be spent on “closing food banks”, or exactly what the RMT means by this, but since the Trussell Trust alone gave out more than two million food parcels last year, replacing this support would probably cost a significant amount.)

On the other hand, the amount of money spent so far on the entire NHS Test and Trace programme (most of which was spent on testing) has been just under £30 billion, based on the £13.5 billion spent in its first year and the roughly £15 billion that it is expected to have spent in its second.

The total value of the government’s pandemic PPE contracts was £13.1 billion, according to a report from the National Audit Office in March 2022. Some of this money was spent on PPE that could not be used, but it is not yet clear how much.

These are certainly large sums of money, but even if we assume that every pound spent on PPE and Test and Trace was “wasted”, it would still amount to much less than the spending described by the RMT.

Full Fact has contacted the RMT for comment, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Image courtesy of Ömer Yıldız

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After we published this fact check, we contacted the RMT union to request a correction regarding this claim.

They are yet to respond. 

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This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because the total amount spent by the government on PPE and NHS Test and Trace during the pandemic was less than one year of NHS funding.

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