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Chemical Attacks (Preparations)

Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the cost was of (a) providing and (b) withdrawing defective equipment aimed at protecting NHS staff from chemical, biological and radiological hazards in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement.[104158]

Between October 2001 and March 2002, the Department issued interim personal protective equipment to trusts in key locations at a cost of £1 million, pending the issue of a new protective suit for ambulance and accident and emergency staff.Supplies of the new protective suit arrived towards the end of 2002. This was part of a £5 million capital procurement programme.No information is available centrally about the cost of equipment obtained by trusts prior to the national procurement programme as this was based on each organisation's local risk assessment.The new suit is designed to a new specification because of the new kind of risks and threats we now face post 11 September 2001. The design is based on expert advice and testing—including from the Defence Science Technology Laboratory at Porton Down—and the garments comply with the relevant European Community standards.Following its introduction into service, further modifications were necessary. The garments are currently being returned to the manufacturer in a phased way for modification of the foot seams and will be further improved by adding an outer gaiter to prevent water getting into boots. The cost of the modification is being met by the manufacturer and the improvement is expected to incur direct costs of £130,000 plus VAT.