Was coronavirus supposed to do this?
Her firm had barely £2m in assets but Sarah Stoute made the most of government panic at the start of the Covid crisis.
A married couple whose business was awarded £1.8 billion in contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) by the government subsequently bought a £6 million mansion and a Bentley.
Sarah Stoute, 47, a former nurse, and her husband, Richard, 50, own Full Support Healthcare, which has supplied PPE, medical gowns and masks, mostly from China. The company, which is based in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, has been the government’s biggest supplier of Covid-related goods.
Officials awarded most of the contracts through an existing “framework” agreement, meaning that the orders were not put out to competitive tender. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on behalf of the Stoutes.
The couple, who have three children and several dogs and horses, recently moved into the £6 million mansion, which has several lakes and a large amount of land, in southeast England. They have also bought the Bentley and a riding centre, which they intend to turn into one of Europe’s top dressage venues.
The disclosures are likely to reignite criticism of the wealth that some people have amassed through Covid-19 contracts. The amount that the Stoutes received for providing PPE could build two Wembley stadiums, fund the annual salary of 55,000 full-time nurses or buy 123 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Companies House records show that last month they bought Design Reality, a consultancy in Wales with assets of £1.6 million, and created a new business called Respiratory Technologies. They are also understood to be expanding their main business, which before the pandemic had annual profits of £800,000 and employed 25 people.
A year ago, says Sarah Stoute, she received a “tip-off” that a deadly virus was spreading from China. The former nurse who co-owns Full Support Healthcare with her husband, Richard, got to work calling factories abroad. She sensed an opportunity.
What she could not have predicted was its immense scale. The Stoutes employed 25 people at their company on the outskirts of the Northamptonshire market town of Wellingborough, and sold PPE (personal protective equipment) to NHS and private hospitals in England. It posted a profit of £808,782 in the year to March 2019.
Latterly the company has provided masks free to some charities and has stated “Here at Full Support we wanted to help out any way we could. We’re so proud to have already been able to donate over 7 million face masks to several charities and UK schools in 2021”.
The question we should all be asking, why have to import from China? From the country where the coronavirus originated?