With the government’s decision to end VAT relief on PPE leading to an increase from £3.50 to £15 for one box of masks, concerned healthcare workers have set up a petition to obtain affordable protection for themselves and patients
Words by Emma Mason
With face coverings mandatory in public spaces across the UK, wearing PPE has become a part of our everyday lives. But for our healthcare workers, having a big enough supply of equipment is vital for them to safely carry out their life-saving work.
In June, the government reported that two billion items of PPE were delivered to NHS and social care workers across England since the pandemic began. To help those who required PPE to cover the unforeseen cost of equipment, the treasury confirmed that the standard 20% VAT amount would be lifted on these items until the 31stOctober.
With the deadline having now passed, it’s become abundantly clear that, despite the fact we’re in the midst of a turbulent second wave, the temporary waiver of VAT on PPE is not set to be extended. As England faces a second national lockdown and Covid cases are rising by more than 20,000 each day, healthcare professionals are worried that they’ll be unable to cover the heavy costs of equipment needed to adequately protect themselves and their patients – with the price of just one box of masks set to shoot up from £3.50 to £15.
We spoke to Dr Uchenna Okoye, Dental Aesthetics Director, London Smiling Dental Group, about why PPE is required for practices to run safely.
‘Dentistry is safe because we have always worked with PPE but with COVID we have all gone up another level. I give my patients gloves and masks and we wear FFP2 and FFP3 masks which are the highest grade. Practices have invested in equipment like high volume suction and air purifiers but so much is still disposable; cups, bibs, protective barriers. We have always used most of these, but now the prices are crazy.’ says Okoye.
‘We have not had any help from government or grants. We are a caring profession and most practices are small businesses so this will cripple us. They need to get rid of the VAT again as PPE is absolutely critical in the fight against the disease. Explains Okoye. ‘Oral Health is critical for the same reason, as your immune system is so important in fighting COVID and it’s vital in maintaining a healthy and robust immune system.’
Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, in a statement to the Telegraph said that “There was an expectation within the sector that the VAT exemption would last until the end of the pandemic. This is an extra financial burden that will not have been costed and in some cases could be the difference between them being able to continue operating. It is outrageous.”
This concern has led medical professionals across the UK to create a petition to have a permanent VAT relief measure put in place, to show support for hardworking healthcare professionals during this monumentally challenging time.
As it stands, the petition has 2,922 signatures – with a goal to reach 10,000 in order to provoke a government response. The financial viability of PPE is central to helping healthcare workers continue to save lives, so government action to make it more affordable is integral.
How to get involved to help end the VAT on PPE:
Sign the petition, share it on social media and spread the message to help these essential workers reach 10,000 signatures. If you are a healthcare worker yourself, then keep on pushing the message of how important PPE is in order for you to stay safe and to keep on saving lives.