Britain writes down nearly 15 bln pounds on COVID PPE gear- watchdog

Jan 26 (Reuters) - Britain has written down almost 15 billion pounds ($18.62 billion) in costs related to COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical items over the last two years, prompting censure from its spending watchdog.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) estimates there has been a 6 billion pound reduction in the value of items procured in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021-2022, the National Audit Office (NAO) said on Thursday.

Out of the 6 billion, a write down of 2.5 billon pounds relates to items already purchased by the DHSC that it no longer expects to use. The rest relates to items the DHSC has committed to purchase, but no longer expects to use.

The DHSC reported an impairment of 8.9 billion pounds in 2020-2021, totalling 14.9 billion pounds for two financial years.

"It is misleading to say that 14.9 billion pounds of taxpayers' money has been wasted," a government spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters, adding it had to compete in an overheated global market to procure items, the majority of which it has used.

"Our approach meant that we were the first country in the world to deploy an approved COVID vaccine, with 144 million doses administered, and we have delivered over 25 billion items of PPE to the frontline," the spokesperson said.

Wes Streeting, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party and its health policy chief, said in a Twitter post: "The carelessness with which the Conservatives treat taxpayers' money is a total scandal."

($1 = 0.8057 pounds)

Reporting by Juby Babu and Lavanya Ahire in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.