The NHS has become 'dangerously over-reliant' on China for vital medicines and supplies, a report has warned (stock of a mask factory)
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The NHS has become ‘dangerously over-reliant’ on China for vital medicines and supplies, a report has warned.

One in six medical items used in UK hospitals, including needles, bandages and oxygen, are shipped from Beijing, according to the thinktank Civitas.

It found that overall NHS dependency on Chinese supply chains has trebled since 2019, with the UK now sending £6.2billion a year to Beijing for medical gear.

The report warned China could ‘weaponise’ or ‘switch off’ medical supplies in future geo-political spats.

Security experts are now calling for an ‘NHS Security Act’ to wean Britain off Chinese medical items and start manufacturing more domestically.

It comes as Europe tries to reduce its dependency on Russian gas and oil following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin has cut off energy exports to Poland and Bulgaria for supplying Ukraine with aid and hitting Russia with financial sanctions.

The NHS has become 'dangerously over-reliant' on China for vital medicines and supplies, a report has warned (stock of a mask factory)

The NHS has become ‘dangerously over-reliant’ on China for vital medicines and supplies, a report has warned (stock of a mask factory)

Civitas looked at 228 medical items on the Government’s disaster relief list – which include drugs, tests, medical devices and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The team found that 17 per cent came from China, up from 6 per cent before the pandemic.

They warned that Britain went ‘cap in hand’ to Beijing for medical supplies during the Coivd crisis when it was caught off-guard by the pandemic.

NHS bureaucracy has DOUBLED since start of Covid while frontline medic workforce has stagnated

The number of bureaucrats in the NHS has doubled since Covid hit despite frontline staff numbers staying the same, a damning report has found.

Analysis by the Policy Exchange thinktank showed there were 14,515 officials working in NHS England and the Department of Health in February — up from 7,883 in 2020.

These figures do not include governmental health agencies like the UK Health Security Agency which got bigger during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the number of NHS nurses increased by just 7 per cent in the past two years, despite the frontline workforce being central to the NHS’ Covid recovery plan.

The Policy Exchange described the disparity as ‘astonishing’ and has called for an urgent review.

It will add to concerns the £12billion NHS cash injection will be swallowed up by the bloat of bureaucracy in the health service instead of tackling the waiting list crisis.

The report found up to a third of tests and diagnostic equipment and 30 per cent of PPE used in the health service now come from China.

Almost all paper masks used by medics in hospitals come from China (90 per cent), more than half of all gloves (54 per cent) and almost 80 per cent of bandages.

And 42 per cent of emergency trolleys and wheelchairs are Chinese-made.

Robert Clark, head of defence and security at Civitas, said: ‘Before the pandemic hit only 6 per cent of vital medical supplies were shipped in from China a figure that has now shot up to almost a sixth. 

‘Things like gloves, monitors, wheelchairs and bandages all largely come from China rather than the UK. We are dangerously over-reliant on China.

‘When the pandemic hit we were caught napping and had to go ‘cap in hand’ to China to keep the NHS afloat – the health equivalent of going to the IMF for a loan in the 1970s. 

‘Because of this we are now sending the Chinese government over £6bn a year in UK taxpayers cash to import basic medical supplies.

‘Let’s not be naïve about China. This is an urgent issue for health bosses with the risk that future geo-political spats could lead to the Chinese switching off critical medical supplies destined for the NHS.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘The NHS, through NHS Supply Chain, secures medical goods from a diverse range of sources.

‘Working with industry partners, this government is building strong supply chains resilient to short-term shocks and long-term challenges to ensure continuity of supply.’

It comes after a separate report found NHS bureaucracy has doubled since Covid hit despite frontline staff numbers staying the same.

Analysis by the Policy Exchange thinktank showed there were 14,515 officials working in NHS England and the Department of Health in February — up from 7,883 in 2020.

These figures do not include governmental health agencies like the UK Health Security Agency which got bigger during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the number of NHS nurses increased by just 7 per cent in the past two years, despite the frontline workforce being central to the NHS’ Covid recovery plan.

The Policy Exchange described the disparity as ‘astonishing’ and has called for an urgent review.

It will add to concerns the £12billion NHS cash injection will be swallowed up by the bloat of bureaucracy in the health service instead of tackling the waiting list crisis.

The extra money is being funded by a 1.25 per cent tax hike that broke a key Tory manifesto pledge in 2019 and came into effect in April.

A record 6.4m people – one in nine of the population – in England are on waiting lists for NHS treatment, with A&E waits at their worst level ever and an ambulance service in crisis.

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