The NHS is “recovering costs for the taxpayer” after it lost tens of millions building emergency hospitals during the Covid pandemic, an investigation has revealed.
The Government ordered the health service to construct a series of large “nightingale” hospitals to assist with potential patient overflow while the virus ravaged the UK, but scores of beds were left unused.
The Daily Mirror has reported that the NHS lost £13million in “constructive losses” on unused emergency beds worth up to £2,500 each in up to seven of these units.
Bosses have now been forced to direct a mass selloff of their remaining beds, with batches on sale for 50 percent of their original purchase price.
The service is yet to admit how much it has sold the units for, but some sales indicate purchases as low as £6.
Two previous annual reports released by the NHS Commissioning Board identified “constructive losses” of £13million, which included storage fees for emergency beds “procured for the Nightingale hospitals at the beginning of the pandemic”.
When the hospitals closed, the report added it was concluded the beds “could not be used in existing hospitals as the specifications were not to the current standard as implemented in all hospitals”.
An NHS spokesman told the Mirror that the beds could not be re-purposed as they were “specifically tailored for the Nightingale”.
They have now “been sold to private sellers” so the service can “recover costs for the taxpayer”.
The NHS has not disclosed what happened to the beds, but the Mirror found that, in 2021, NHS Procurement offered the beds for a significantly reduced price.
In February of that year, the department offered the Care Provider Alliance cut-price surplus Oska emergency acute beds “bought for £2,500 each” for “50 percent of the purchase price”.
The beds were listed in “batches of five” and for 100 per customer with the possibility of “greater discounting” for larger orders.
Medical bed specialist firm Oska said in April 2020 that it had supplied 6,000 beds for the Nightingale programme, with the Mirror finding 1,000 placed on sale online and at actions over the last few months.
The publication said that auctions held by Simon Charles of Stockport on July 26 and August 1 saw 47 Oska hospital beds, two of which were model variants identified in the NHS Procurement note, sold for £6 to £17 each.
An NHS spokesman said the beds were purchased “right at the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic” where the NHS needed to increase bed numbers “in line with projected Covid patients”.
They added the majority of the Nightingale beds “have been re-purposed in healthcare settings”.
And Oska said: “Oska were one of the many bed suppliers that felt their obligation to help the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot comment on any Government decisions that have ensued since.”