Britain’s National Health Service has become “dangerously overreliant” on China for medical supplies, with the health agency spending more than £6 billion (US$7.4 billion) on Chinese-produced medical products last year, according to a new report by British think tank Civitas. One in six items found on the United Kingdom’s so-called disaster relief list are sourced from China and the British government’s spending on Chinese-produced medical products has tripled since 2019, the report found. In the past, only about 6 per cent of vital medical supplies were sourced from China, it said. The list includes more than 200 items, ranging from medicines and medical devices to personal protection equipment and disinfectants. No duties or value-added tax (VAT) are paid on imported items on that list. “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,” said Robert Clark, co-author of the report and head of defence and security at Civitas, in a statement . “Let’s not be naive about China. 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,” he added. The NHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. The report found that 37 per cent of testing and diagnostic equipment, a quarter of medical consumables, such as oxygen and syringes, and 30 per cent of protective gear was imported from China in 2021. About 90 per cent of surgical masks used by NHS workers came from China and 78 per cent of bandages and gauze used by the agency were produced in China, the group said. Almost half of the NHS’ bedside monitoring devices are produced in China, compared with none seven years ago, Civitas said. In its report, Civitas called for the introduction of an NHS security act to help secure the nation’s medical supply chains, similar to the Telecommunications (Security) Act passed last year. The security act gave the government broader powers to intervene and ban the use of products and vendors in the telecoms industry in the name of national security. It followed a 2020 ban on Huawei Technologies products being used in the UK’s 5G mobile network. “One of the central questions for UK policy is where government should seek ‘reglobalisation’ instead of ‘reshoring’ to become less dependent on the Chinese supply chains which have become entrenched, in part, through mercantilist behaviours,” the report’s authors said. “Reglobalisation would include the concept of ally-shoring, which could also help developing countries avoid the potential political leverage that could result from reliance on Chinese suppliers,” they added.