New report criticises some of the UK Government’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

Hospital corridor

A new Parliamentary Committee report, featuring findings from a study conducted by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the Universities of Liverpool Oxford, criticises some of the UK Government’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, how the NHS and social care prepared for the COVID-19 peak.

The COVID-19 outbreak presented unprecedented challenges to health and social care services in England. After the first cases of COVID-19 in England were reported in January 2020, the NHS and the adult social care sector responded swiftly to prepare for the impact of the pandemic within hospitals and care homes. The NHS was severely stretched but able to meet overall demand for COVID-19 treatment during the pandemic’s April peak. Unfortunately, it has been a very different story for adult social care.

The ‘Readying the NHS and social care for the COVID-19 peak‘, published by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), is the committee’s first examination of the health and social care response to the crisis. The report is very critical of some of the Government’s responses to the pandemic, for example the discharge of hospital patients to care homes without COVID tests.

The report highlights the Committee’s particular concern about staff in health and social care and states ‘(they) have endured the strain and trauma of responding to COVID-19 for many months’ and are now expected to ‘cope with future peaks and also deal with the enormous backlogs that have built up’.

The report features evidence from a UKRI funded Liverpool-Oxford research study which interviewed health care workers and policy makers during the pandemic, to help inform policy and examine how decisions affect healthcare workers. As well as recording the experiences of senior policymakers, the study also used interviews and observation to examine the impact those responses and policy changes have on healthcare workers, in both general practice and hospitals.

Professor Sally Sheard, Head of the University’s Department of Public Health and Policy, said: “Findings from the study submitted to the report included evidence that the NHS’ and PHE’s own laboratories responded well to the need for rapid analysis of tests, and greater use of these more local resources would have saved exhausted health care workers at the end of long shifts from having to drive long distances to a test centre. Where the NHS tested its own staff on site and sent specimens to a nearby lab, whether in an NHS facility or otherwise, these problems were avoided.”

More details of the Liverpool-Oxford research study can be found here.

The full ‘Readying the NHS and social care for the COVID-19 peak’ report can be found here.