PPE price scandal firm ‘feeding off people’s fears’, claims hospital chief executive

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT Picture: ARCHANT

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Rachel Edge

A company selling personal protective equipment (PPE) has been accused of “feeding off people’s fear” by a hospital chief executive after increasing the cost of its stock by more than 700%.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) - which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals - hit out at the firm a day after revealing it had tried to sell him coveralls way above their original price.

The health boss would not name the company but accused it of “outrageous profiteering”.

He added that he “absolutely guarantees” the trust will not buy from the firm in question again.

He said: “I get that there may be more costs involved in production at the moment.

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“Clearly there are problems with the supply chain, which might require a genuine increase in price - but I absolutely can’t accept that something that was £2 in January is now worth £16.50.

“For me, it just smacked of blatant profiteering. It is a company that we have used before but can I absolutely guarantee we won’t be using them again and indeed I’ve let a few of my NHS colleagues know about this and a few people picked it up on twitter.”

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Since the shocking news was revealed, there have been calls for the company to be named and shamed.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said those who exploit the vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic should be punished.

Mr Hulme said: “Confidentially, I’ve shared the company’s name with a couple of colleagues so they don’t use them either now or indeed in the future.

“Do you know what? I hope it is a bit of a hit for the company.

“I think I find any waste of public money difficult, particularly at the moment.

“I think while everyone is struggling, the fact that there are still people taking advantage of the situation to make more money for themselves is just greed.

“This situation that we find ourselves in is bringing out the absolute best and the absolute worst in people.

“There are people going to extraordinary lengths to support our staff.

“We’ve seen the amazing support we have had for the NHS, whether it’s the clapping at 8pm on a Thursday or all sorts of other ways and yet there are also people out there who are willing to make not only a fast buck but several fast bucks from vulnerable people and from a vulnerable situation, where frankly they’re feeding on people’s fear.

“I was contacted on twitter by somebody who said their local pharmacists are selling face masks for at £4.99 each.

“These cost pence if you buy them in bulk.

“So I think we all need to be careful to make sure of course that we are protecting ourselves and the people we care about, but equally that they are not hoodwinked into paying more than is necessary.”

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