Contracts, Court Cases, Connections & Controversies
The Kings Lynn based Inivos formerly called Specialist Hygiene Solutions, is a company, which will take us on a journey. One which goes into the heart of the UK government in Westminster, with mentions in the House of Lords and the House of Commons. One that spans the Globe from Australia, to China to Canada and the European commission. It is a compilation of articles already in the public domain brought together for the first time, it involves court cases, PPE contracts, controversies, questions raised in parliament and political connections.
Inivos is owned by the Fentiman family. The Fentiman’s are members of the controversial sect, called the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.
Incorporated in 2010 under the name of Specialist Hygiene Solutions Ltd, changing name to Inivos Ltd early in 2020. The company specialises in infection control, with the supply of Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV) decontamination machines originally marketed under the Deprox brand and now under the PrOxcide name, they also supply Ultra Violet (UV) decontamination units.
Accounts filed on companies house since the incorporation in 2010 show that company grew at a steady pace from 2010 through until the end of 2015. From 2015 through until the end of 2019 assets, remained consistent, moving up and down between £1.5 million and £2 million.
At the end of 2019 the company employed 63 people, with a significant increase of staff since 2017. Profits for 2016 was £562k and 2017 at £14k. Profits were not declared in 2018 or 2019. Accounts show that the company had 32k cash in hand and at the bank, with debtors of 1.8 million and creditors of 1.36 million at the end of 2019.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and suddenly Inivos became a major supplier of PPE (Facemasks & gowns) to the NHS via three contracts awarded by the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) without prior publication of a call for competition. This led to a substantial growth in the accounts reported by Inivos for the year end of 2020 when compared with 2019.
Accounts show that the company turned over almost £135 million, with a gross profit of £45 million. Administrative expenses were £8.1 million of which £4.8 million (not including social security costs) was paid to their average of 67 employees, giving an average wage of over £71,000.
There was also a loan of £5 million made to a third party. The other note of interest is that at the 31st December 2020, the company was engaged in commercial discussions with an international trade partner, at the time, the outcome of those discussions was uncertain and the company had made a potential cost provision of £5 million. During 2022 the discussions had concluded and the provision for accounts ending 31st December 2021 had been made in line with the now settled position.
A total of over £3.8 million of unused reserves had been reversed.
Pre Tax profits for 2020 amounted to £31.9 million with after tax profit of £26.3 million. The final figure shows that cash in hand and at the bank had increased from £32k to £25.1 million in just 12 months. In February 2021, the company paid a dividend to the shareholders (all members of the Fentiman family) of £12 million.
Following the incredible previous year, the 2021 accounts still show fantastic growth compared to pre-pandemic 2019 accounts. Turnover in 2021 was £10.7 million with a gross profit of £3.68 million. Administrative expenses increased by almost £1 million to £9.03 million. Though staff wages dropped to just over £4 million, despite an increase of staff from an average of 67 to an average of 105. The increase was in part due to the purchase out of administration of Scientific & Chemical Supplies Ltd trading as SciChem.
Exceptional items were reported at £3.3 million which would appear to be the amended figure for the outcome of discussions with an international trade partner.
Therefore the company showed an operating loss for 2021 of over £2 million. Loss before tax was £1.98 million and after tax was £1.36 million, with a 376k reduction based on previous years and a healthy tax reduction of 324k for R&D.
Overall it left the shareholder funds of £14.9 million. Two years prior the shareholder funds were just £1.9 million and during that time a dividend of £12 million had been paid to the shareholders.
The company structure has been amended with Inivos now a subsidiary of Specialist Health Solutions Ltd, along with Inivos Scientific & SciChem which both are now trading under a new name, the Vitta Group.
As we wait to see how 2022 transpired for the Fentiman's, what we do know is that since the PPE contracts awarded in 2020, Inivos has gone on to win many more contracts than prior to the pandemic. The Inivos PPE contracts clearly had a substantial benefit to the company and the Fentiman's.
Prior to 2020 the company known as Specialist Hygiene Solutions had been supplying their decontamination machines to various NHS Trusts.
A search of the UK contracts register shows they had been awarded three contracts, the first one we can find was a framework agreement with ESPO in June 2016. This framework was for Total cleaning services & solutions, with part of the framework being for Decontamination services & systems. The contract was awarded to thirty-eight suppliers in total and had a value between £12 and £50 million.
In January 2017 they were one of 4 suppliers awarded a contract by The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS foundation trust. The contract was for national framework agreement for UVC cleaning solutions. The contract does not state a value.
The only other contract listed prior to 2020 was awarded by County Durham and Darlington NHS foundation trust. It was awarded solely to Specialist Hygiene Solutions, with a value of £61,484 for 3 Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV) decontamination machines.
These 3 contracts were the only contracts we could find awarded to Specialist Hygiene Solutions, though a search of the spend published by individual NHS Trusts, shows a total spend with Specialist Hygiene Solutions/Inivos prior to the start of the pandemic as follows:
2016 £592,400 by 8 different NHS Trusts
2017 £1,062,517 by 9 different NHS Trusts
2018 £950,969 by 9 different NHS Trusts
2019 £504,911 by 10 different NHS Trusts
In 2020 the company changed its name to Inivos Ltd and were then awarded the PPE contracts, all of which were awarded ‘under the negotiated procedure without prior publication of a contract notice’, it would be the start of a step change for the company in terms of contracts awarded.
The first of 3 PPE contracts was awarded in May 2020, this was for the supply of facemasks and the contract was worth over £5 million. The second PPE contract awarded just 2 weeks later was also for facemasks and this time worth over £4 million. Our research found that there is anomaly with the transparency of the DHSC in the first 2 months of the pandemic PPE buying spree, though the contracts are published, there is no record for any of the spend with PPE suppliers by the DHSC for contracts awarded in April & May 2020, on the DHSC spend £25,000 over reports.
The facemask contracts would have been significant for a company the size of Inivos, but the game changer would be the 3rd contract. This was awarded on 24th June 2020, it was for the supply of 24 million sterile surgical gowns at £4.89 per gown, giving a total contract value of over £117 million. The gowns were sourced from a Chinese manufacturer Henan Yadu Industrial Co. Ltd, delivery was scheduled over 9 weeks, to the Uniserve logistics hub in Beijing, with the first delivery within 2 weeks. An initial payment was made by the DHSC of 7.5% (£8.8 million) of the total value.
We can see in the DHSC spend data that from July 2020 until January 2021, that the DHSC made regular payments to Inivos and that the total value of spend matched the £117.36 million value of the contract. Based on the payment terms agreed, it would appear that the contract took 26 weeks to fulfil, much longer than the 9 weeks stated in the contract.
The story of the 3rd Inivos PPE contract does not however end in January 2021, it will become a topic of discussion in both the House of Commons and the Lords.
On the 25th May 2022, the Procurement Bill was going through its 2nd reading in the House of Lords, when Lord Strasburger relayed the following story:
"As I promised at the start, I shall now tell the fascinating and deeply worrying story of Adrian Buckley, a gentleman from Yorkshire who has been trading with China for 32 years and has a full-time sourcing manager based in China on his payroll, not merely an agent. I am recounting his experiences in the summer of 2020 as an illustration of what can go wrong when competitive tendering is abandoned and individual Ministers and officials are given too much untrammelled discretion to select contractors.
In May 2020, Mr Buckley’s company, Buckley Healthcare Ltd, fulfilled an order for 1 million surgical gowns for a hospital trust in Yorkshire. The procurement director was so satisfied that he recommended Mr Buckley’s company to the NHS procurement officer, who informed Mr Buckley that he was putting his company forward to the Cabinet Office to supply 24 million gowns nationally. Mr Buckley and his sourcing manager scoured China for a factory with the capacity and skills to handle such a large order. They also thoroughly checked that the factory had access to the necessary raw materials and that the factory and its staff could meet the required specification for the products. After some time, they found a factory that met all the requirements, which was no mean feat in the frenzied market that existed at that time.
On 4 June 2020, Mr Buckley sent full details and prices to the NHS procurement officer, who forwarded them to the Cabinet Office. After a two-week silence, the details were re-sent to the office of the noble Lord, Lord Deighton, who was managing PPE procurement for the Government from the Cabinet Office. The email included the full specification and photos and videos from inside the factory.
On 25 June, three days after the company had been told that its proposal had been sent for approval, it was informed that the contract had been placed elsewhere. The company was surprised and disappointed, but assumed that it had been outbid and accepted the outcome.
A few days later, however, the company received an agitated phone call from the owner of the Chinese factory saying that he had been contacted by an agent for a company of which he had never heard concerning an order identical to the one he had planned with Mr Buckley. From the naive questions being asked, it was clear that this new company had no experience of buying PPE. Now suspicious that his company’s extensive investigation work and detailed proposal had been passed by the Government to another company—a debutant in the market—Mr Buckley emailed the noble Lord, Lord Deighton, asking what was going on. He received a reply from a civil servant offering first one and then another phoney reason for rejecting the Buckley bid, both of which were quickly dispensed with.
On 12 September, the contract with the other company was published, 30 days later than it should have been. It revealed that the contract had been awarded to a company called Inivos, which appears to have no previous experience of PPE. But the most startling revelation in the contract details was that the price paid to Inivos was £12 million higher than Mr Buckley’s proposal. So, there is every reason to suspect that the details of Mr Buckley’s supply arrangements were passed to Inivos, and that taxpayers have been robbed of £12 million in the process.
There is a full audit trail of all communications between the Cabinet Office and Mr Buckley’s company to support his version of events. I should say, by the way, that Mr Buckley and I have totally different political outlooks. He was a strong advocate of Brexit—although his serious problems with the new Brexit bureaucracy are causing him to think again—but he and I share a strong distaste for corruption and dishonesty. Many years ago, he donated £50,000 to the Conservative Party, and we both wonder whether he would have suffered the same fate from the Cabinet Office if he had kept up his payments to the Tories.
Will the Minister initiate an independent and forensic inquiry into whether a Minister or official in the Cabinet Office behaved unethically and passed to Inivos Mr Buckley’s gold-dust information on where and how to acquire the goods? Where is the extra £12 million? Did it remain with Inivos as super-profit, or was it shared with whoever disclosed the details of Mr Buckley’s supply arrangement with the Chinese factory—if that in fact happened? We also need to audit the other PPE contracts to find any other instances of similar behaviour."
The story relayed by Lord Strasburger does raise questions. One being what was the process in place in the award of the contract to Inivos? Secondly who was the agent for Inivos that contacted the Chinese manufacturer? What did that agent get paid?
We spoke to Mr Buckley to clarify a couple of points. The price he had put forward for the gowns was £4.01 each and therefore the difference in value would have actually been over £21 million and not £12 million stated by Lord Strasburger. He also confirmed the name of the agent that contacted the Chinese manufacture Henan Yadu on behalf of Inivos. Unfortunately at this point we are unwilling to publish the agent's name, until they confirm.
The Inivos contract for the gowns has also been subject to a series of questions raised in the House of Lords by Lord Alton around the quality and use of the gowns.
Starting on the 12 January 2022:
It is also of note that on the 31st January 2022 during a debate of the Health & Care Bill. Lord Alton also said:
"Today the Minister might also like to provide the House with information about the £270 million spent on Zhende and Inivos products which are faulty and cannot be used in the NHS. Where were they made and in what conditions? Who gave the green light to spend that money? Have we no plans to censure those involved in those purchases either? Are we now seriously going to try and sell faulty products, euphemistically described as excess stock, to developing countries, as I have been told in a response from the department? What are we thinking?"
Lord Alton has continued to question the DHSC around the transparency of costs recuperated for faulty goods and the publication of the amounts recovered. He also continues to chase up the costs of storage of PPE in China, which is a different story but is interesting considering the amount being spent to store PPE in China being quite astonishing.
A question was, also raised in September 2020 in the House of Commons by Deidrie Brock MP. Her question was in relation to previous contracts won by Inivos
The Inivos supplied PPE is also mentioned in an answer to a question raised by Angela Rayner MP in December 2021. The question is in regards to the sale of surplus PPE.
It would appear from the questions raised and answers given, that the story of this contract may still have further legs. We wait with anticipation.
What is also worthy of note is that since Deirdrie Brock raised her question in regards to previous contracts awarded to Inivos, there has been a substantial increase in the number of contracts won by Inivos.
In total according to UK Contracts finder, Inivos have been awarded since November 2020 a further 27 contracts alongside other suppliers on government framework agreements or direct sole contracts totalling a breath taking sum of almost £9 billion.
A large percentage (33.3%) of these awards have been made by the NHS Supply Chain or NHS Shared Business services. Considering that Inivos are an infection control company supplying Decontamination products, the contracts appear not to be exclusive to decontamination.
July 21: £23.8 million: awarded to 13 suppliers including Inivos for Disposable Cubicle Shower & Window curtains
July 21: £1.6 billion: awarded to 29 suppliers including Inivos for Modular Buildings
Oct 21: £180 million: awarded to 56 suppliers including Inivos for General Wound Care
Dec 21: £6 billion: awarded to 58 suppliers including Inivos for Medical Examination Gloves & Surgical Gloves
Jan 22: £55 million: awarded to 30 suppliers including Inivos for Environmental Decontamination
Feb 22: £7.3 million: awarded to 24 suppliers including Inivos for Single use Tourniquet
Feb 22: £83 million - awarded to 23 suppliers including Inivos for disposable wipes for surface cleaning.
June 22: £800 million - awarded to 155 suppliers including Inivos for a large list of maintenance & supply services including decontamination.
Jan 23: £95 million - awarded to 32 suppliers including Inivos for Hand Hygiene & associated products & services, includes but not limited to hand wash alcohol & non-alcohol based hand disinfectants, repair and protective hand creams & emollients, and antiseptic wipes.
It is also worth noting that there a number of the other suppliers listed on these contracts, that are also owned by members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.
The contracts awarded to Inivos since the start of 2020 are likely to have significantly grown the business, and the awards do not appear to have been hindered by the number of questions raised in the Lords & the Commons surrounding the contracts for PPE.
It is also interesting that Inivos have a further connection to Westminster via Peterborough Conservative MP Paul Bristow.
It is not unusual for companies to have a visit from their local MP, especially when marking the opening of new premises or celebrating a success. Therefore, we were not surprised to see Peterborough MP Paul Bristow along with Rob Hughes, the Chairman of Peterborough City Hospital, attending the opening of the Fentiman company Test Labs in mid-January 2021. He also visited Test Labs again recently in March 2023.
Test Labs was designed specifically for researching and testing issues around infection control and prevention. The company registered number on their website is the registered company number of Inivos Ltd.
The connection however with Paul Bristow does not end with these visits to Inivos.
Prior to entering parliament as an MP in 2019, Bristow owned a company called PB Consulting Ltd. On entering parliament, he ceased to be a person with significant control, with his wife taking over the business. The company changed names in November 2020 to Healthcomms Consulting Ltd. Healthcomms Consulting is an award winning healthcare communications agency, specialising in public affairs, market access and media relations. In August 2022 it joined forces with the PLMR group.
The Public Affairs Board, which is the voice of the public affairs & lobbying industry produces a register which is updated quarterly. The register shows its members and the clients they have represented in each quarter. The register shows that Inivos Ltd following the award of the PPE contracts, that they employed Maitland/AMO as their PR company from a period between June 2020 and February 2021.
Inivos then switched PR companies and became a client of Healthcomms Consulting a few weeks after the Bristow opening of their Test Labs facility in January 2021. The register shows Inivos as a client of Healthcomms Consulting from a period between March 2021 and August 2022. Coincidentally in the same time-period when they were awarded all but the very last of the NHS supply chain & NHS Business services contracts highlighted earlier.
It is important to note that we are not suggesting anything untoward by any party involved
In the course of our research into Inivos & the Fentiman family, we came across some court cases involving Inivos/Specialist Hygiene Solutions and director Warrick Fentiman.
In 2021 Inivos Ltd & Inivos BV were the claimant represented by DLA Piper, in a case against the European Commission*. The case was in regard to the award to a contract, subsequently awarded to a Danish company under the negotiated procedure without prior publication of a contract notice, at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is worth noting that Inivos were awarded contracts by the DHSC under the negotiated procedure with publication of a contract notice. Inivos lost the case after appeal and had to pay the European Commission's costs.
Global Plastic (UK) Limited
In 2021 Inivos Ltd were the defendant represented by Kingsley Napley, in a case brought by claimant Global Plastic (UK) Ltd** We don't have information on the case. Though we can show that Norfolk based Global Plastic (UK) Limited were involved in the supply of PPE during the pandemic, regularly promoting face masks supply on LinkedIn. We approached Global Plastic (UK) Limited for comment, but did not receive a response.
Specialist Hygiene Solutions Ltd v Marsh
In 2017 Specialist Hygiene Solutions Ltd sought to partially enforce a Tomlin order against Richard Marsh in Saskatchewan, Canada.*** The Canadian court dismissed the application on the basis that there was no UK order in existence with respect to the agreed terms. Accordingly, the application was deemed premature and it was therefore dismissed.
Libel Claim & Contempt of Court
In 2018 Specialist Hygiene Solutions Ltd, director Warrick Fentiman was the claimant, represented by Kingsley Napley in a case against ex Brethren member Richard Marsh. Resulting in Marsh being given a fine, then later in a contempt of court case, receiving an 8 month sentence, suspended for 2 years.
Inivos under the previous name of Specialist Hygiene Solutions supplied a machine which used Hydrogen Peroxide to decontaminate rooms/wards in hospitals, called Deprox.
A number of stories have been published around the risks involved in the use of these machines, it has been reported by various sources that following a 4 year investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), that they told Specialist Hygiene Solutions to tighten up their safety measures. There has been a number of reported incident of nosebleeds & burning eyes, after the machines were used by NHS staff.
The Eastern Press reported that through freedom of information requests, that the NHS had spent £2.1 million on these machines though some NHS trusts had not disclosed the spend, and it therefore could be considerably higher. It also reported that the NHS was now using an alternative decontamination method.
The Telegraph reported on a story about a NHS worker who used the machines at Morriston Hospital in Swansea. It also states that 2 domestic managers who made claims against their NHS trusts won a five-figure pay out between them earlier in 2019. We should add that in the article a spokesman for, Hygiene Solutions responded that Deprox "when used correctly, had been proven to be safe and effective at reducing infections in hospitals" adding that "the operator instructions and the equipment carry warnings about their safe use and it is important that the operator must perform the required steps correctly"
We are also aware that Leeds based solicitors Oakwood Solicitors were involved in a number of these cases against the individual NHS trusts.
Eastern Press - www.edp24.co.uk/news/business/20774472.firm-denies-product-gave-nhs-staff-nosebleeds/
Daily Telegraph - www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/27/nhs-staff-risk-inhaling-toxic-fumes-cleaning-machines-investigation/
London Economic - www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/thousands-of-nhs-staff-in-uk-could-have-been-put-at-risk-of-inhaling-
Somerset Live - www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/health/uk-nhs-staff-could-been-3355291
Oakwood Solicitors - www.oakwoodsolicitors.co.uk/news/hydrogen-peroxide-vapour/
The Plymouth Brethren operate, mainly in, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada & the USA. What is also common is to find that a business being operated in one country, will likely be operating in another country under another Brethren family.
It would appear that the Fentiman owner company was no different. We found that back in 2011 that trademarks were lodged in Australia for both Deprox & Hygiene Solutions.
The owner of these Trademarks was Gregory Hales, son of church leader Bruce Hales. We have previously shown the Hales family links to the biggest covid contract awards (Unispace/Sante/Medco Solutions).
Inivos is a fascinating story, one in which they had courted controversy with an initial product in Deprox, with a reprimand from the HSE. The attempt to silence a whistle blower in Canada and also taking him to court for libel in the UK.
That at the end of 2019 showing just 32k in the bank and the fact they were not a PPE supplier, that they were then awarded three PPE contracts. One of which was a £117 million contract in unusual circumstances, in that another supplier in Buckley Healthcare, claims to have laid the foundations and had been in negotiation with the government to supply the gowns prior to Inivos being awarded the contract, at a cost of more than £21 million more than had been quoted by Buckley Healthcare. That it would appear based on the payments made by the DHSC that the contract was not delivered within the agreed timescale. That based on the questions raised in the Lords by Lord Alton that the PPE supplied was not all to the required standard.
That Inivos were taken to court by a third party over PPE supply contract issues. Whilst around the same time, Inivos took the European Commission to court over a contract awarded under the same procedures, a procedure that saw then benefit to the tune of over £125 million for the PPE contracts.
That there is a connection to their local Conservative MP Paul Bristow, with his visits to Test Labs and that Inivos became a client of Healthcomms Consulting Ltd. Healthcomms Consulting Ltd promoted themselves as being able to gain market access, since Inivos became a client of Healthcomms Consulting, they have won significantly more contracts, than previously, with
the contracts awarded by the DHSC, NHS Supply Chain & NHS Shared business services since the start of 2020, being predominantly not related to decontamination.
That again we find another Plymouth Brethren member, whose company connect to Bruce Hales & his family and that the Hales family are linked to companies that won over £2 billion of Covid-19 contracts globally, including Unispace, Sante Global, Medco Solutions, Sterilabs, Westlab & Core Supply with the majority, in terms of value, being won in the UK.
We are not saying that any of the parties named in this story have done anything untoward.
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