Britain’s ‘crumbling’ pandemic infrastructure needs urgent investment, spending watchdog warns

However, the NAO said that the old age of the centre’s laboratories can “present challenges with respect to meeting the standards required by licensing bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive”.

This, in turn, “can result in increasing operational and maintenance costs for these buildings,” the watchdog added.

“In the last decade, these highest containment laboratories have been working with at least one known issue for 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the time, although this largely had no impact on service or health and safety.” The NAO did not specify the nature of these issues.

Safety and security requirements in recent years at Porton Down have led to increased investment, with £41 million funnelled into the site through the Vaccine Taskforce, which was set up during the pandemic.

This created 18 new laboratory spaces – though these are not the highest-level containment specificity that are critical to the government’s long-term plans for developing the nation’s pandemic response infrastructure.

The project at Harlow meanwhile remains on hold. UKHSA and its predecessors have spent more than £400 million on the site up to the end of October 2023. This is around 75 per cent of the initial cost estimate that was approved by the Treasury in 2015.

The largest elements of that spend have been on design, revenue, project support and management, and construction costs, at £91 million, £89 million, £76 million and

£66 million respectively, and the £30 million that was spent on acquiring the site.

However, it’s not clear what comes next for the programme, the NAO report said. 

“The programme is now at an impasse after UKHSA concluded in 2023 that the Harlow hub cannot be built within the £2 billion that HMT [the Treasury] has indicated it is willing to fund and that the Department of Health & Social Care [DHSC] wants to stick to.

“UKHSA has been asked to explore remaining in Porton Down as an alternative but has consistently assessed Harlow as the best value-for-money option for bringing together and consolidating multiple sites.”

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button


Get our latest downloads and information first. Complete the form below to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

100% secure your website.