Government PPE contracts: Campaign groups set for ruling in legal challenge

The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor claimed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) unlawfully awarded contracts

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Two campaign groups who challenged the Government over a so-called “VIP lane” for personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts will find out if they have won their High Court battle.

The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor claimed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) unlawfully awarded contracts worth more than £700 million to supply PPE at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The groups took legal action over contracts awarded to pest control firm PestFix and the hedge fund Ayanda Capital.

Following a hearing last year, Mrs Justice O’Farrell is now due to give her written ruling on Wednesday morning.

In May 2021, the two campaign groups argued that millions of pounds worth of equipment, which was “useless to the NHS”, was purchased in April and May 2020 without proper technical checks, at inflated prices, as a result of the contracts provided through a “VIP lane”.

The High Court was told this lane was reserved for referrals from MPs, ministers and senior officials, adding that DHSC “then prioritised suppliers including PestFix and Ayanda because of who they knew, not what they could deliver”.

During the five-day hearing, the groups argued that “well over half” of the approximately £595 million spent with PestFix and Ayanda Capital was “wasted” on PPE which did not meet technical standards for use in the NHS.

“The outcome of all of this was a truly tragic waste of public money,” Jason Coppel QC, for the groups, told the court.

DHSC contested the claim, telling the court it “wholeheartedly” rejected the case against it.

The department’s barrister Michael Bowsher QC said the VIP lane, also known as the high-priority lane (HPL), was rational and resulted in a “large number of credible offers” in an environment where PPE deals often failed within “minutes”.

“The goal here was to try and get as much of the right PPE in as quickly as possible. That was the simple point,” Mr Bowsher said.

Mrs Justice O’Farrell is due to hand down her ruling remotely at 10.30am on Wednesday.