PPE Medpro tried to sell the UK medical equipment with a safety report purportedly provided by a firm that has denied authoring the document, the government has alleged in a £133mn lawsuit against the scandal-riven medical supplies company.
PPE Medpro, incorporated just weeks before it signed its first contract with the Department of Health and Social Care, provided a test report from Intertek, an accreditation company. But Intertek denied issuing the document, according to the department’s lawsuit against PPE Medpro.
The department’s complaint, filed in December with the High Court and recently obtained by the Financial Times, also alleges that PPE Medpro provided 72 lots of gowns stamped with a CE mark, which verifies that a product has been assessed by an accredited body. It is also a legal requirement for products that need to be “sterile”.
However, PPE Medpro did not include a number indicating which body had performed the accreditation, the lawsuit said. PPE Medpro has not yet responded to the lawsuit.
PPE Medpro has for months been embroiled in a scandal after reports that lingerie entrepreneur Baroness Michelle Mone lobbied ministers using their personal email addresses to help ensure the company received lucrative government contracts totalling more than £200mn. She has consistently denied having any relationship with the company.
Late last year bank documents reported by the Guardian and the FT outlined how at least £65mn in profits from the company were sent to accounts that benefited Mone or her husband Douglas Barrowman, who had also previously denied involvement with PPE Medpro.
The new lawsuit alleges that PPE Medpro provided “invalid” information about the health and safety of the products themselves during the height of the pandemic.
When a representative from the government contacted the company to inquire about the provenance of the CE marking on the gowns, PPE Medpro director Anthony Page — a business associate of Barrowman — confirmed that the medical equipment “did not have the requisite notified body accreditation”, according to the legal filings.
During a second and separate PPE tendering process, PPE Medpro provided a test report it said had been performed by Intertek with the code SHAT06648491, the legal filings state, which Intertek “denied having issued”.
Intertek did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit said that 92 per cent of the 60 PPE Medpro gowns tested by the government were found not to be sterile. It also stated that the gowns were single- rather than double-wrapped, in breach of requirements, and that they “could not be used within the NHS for any purpose”.
On December 23 the government wrote to PPE Medpro, rejecting the gowns because “they did not comply with relevant laws applying to medical devices and because PPE Medpro had failed to provide certification to establish that the gowns had been reliably sterilised for medical use, rendering them unusable in the NHS”.
The government is seeking repayment of £122mn for the gowns along with £11.6mn for costs incurred as part of the case.
PPE Medpro did not respond to a request for comment. It previously told the FT that the gowns “were manufactured to the correct quality standards and specification set out in the contract, delivered on time and at a price that was 50 per cent of what DHSC had been paying at the time”.
It claimed that DHSC rejected the gowns because it had “vastly over ordered” PPE and realised it would not be able to use the items, adding: “DHSC’s cynical attempt to recover money from suppliers like PPE Medpro, who acted in good faith and to contract specifications, will be found out through the civil court process”.
DHSC said: “We do not comment on matters that are the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.”