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The British National Health Service (NHS) over the past two years has tripled its spending on Chinese-made medical supplies, spending more than $7 billion in 2021.
“Before the pandemic hit only 6 percent of vital medical supplies were shipped in from China a figure that has now shot up to almost a sixth,” said Robert Clark, author of the study and head of defense and security at Civitas. “Things like gloves, monitors, wheelchairs and bandages all largely come from China rather than the UK. We are dangerously over reliant on China.”
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British think tank Civitas analyzed materials used by the NHS and found that Britain has sourced 17% of its most critical materials from China, triple the number from before the pandemic, and the NHS continues to heavily rely on Chinese goods for the “Disaster Relief List.”
The list includes materials such as biohazard testing; consumables including oxygen, needles and syringes; and medical masks and gowns. Of those materials, the NHS imports 90% of all paper masks, 54% of all gloves and around 80% of bandages.
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Civitas has called for an emergency security act to increase diversification over fears that China “could switch off medical supplies” in future discussions.
“Let’s not be naive about China,” Clark said. “This is an urgent issue for health bosses with the risk that future geopolitical spats could lead to the Chinese switching off critical medical supplies destined for the NHS.”
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised to “end reliance on China” for vital medical supplies in 2020 as part of an effort to “repatriate” key manufacturing capabilities and improve the U.K.’s self-sufficiency, The Times reported.
“It is about the diversification of supply lines so we are no longer dependent on individual countries for non-food essentials,” a government source said at the time of Johnson’s initiative.
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But the Civitas study indicates that Parliament has done the opposite.
“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,” Clark argued. “Because of this we are now sending the Chinese government over £6 billion a year in UK taxpayers’ cash to import basic medical supplies.”