A review conducted by the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care found that over 20% of the 1,361 suppliers to the National Health Service (NHS) are at “high risk” of modern slavery in their supply chains. The Guardian reports.
China’s role in NHS supplies sparks modern slavery concerns
Nearly half of all NHS suppliers of gowns, uniforms, and masks are located in China. The review flagged concerns over the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where an estimated 100,000 individuals, including Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, are believed to be working under forced labor conditions.
The review utilized risk assessments from the government’s Modern Slavery Assessment Tool (MSAT) and other criteria. Based on these evaluations, it was determined that 21% of NHS suppliers were categorized as high-risk.
The findings have sparked outrage:
“NHS staff will be appalled they’re using protective clothing and equipment made by people at risk of modern slavery or human trafficking.” – Jon Richard, Assistant General Secretary, UnisonBottom of Form.
Urgent calls for reevaluation and action
While the U.K. government is taking steps to identify and eradicate modern slavery in their supply chains, the results show that more needs to be done. Advocates call on the government to look beyond procurement and introduce trade mechanisms to stop products made with forced labor from entering the country. Furthermore, standards need to be improved across all public sector supply chains.
“While we’re pleased to see that the government has taken steps to identify the very real risk of modern slavery in NHS supply chains, this is only the first of many steps.” – Sian Lea, Business and Human Rights Manager, Anti-Slavery International
Furthermore, it was recommended to embed due diligence processes. Mandatory human rights due diligence laws are important to ensure companies are held accountable for abuses in their supply chains. Join us in calling for laws that put people and the planet before profits!