A joint report by the House of Commons All Party Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees says the UK’s failure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic was one of the worst ever public health failures.
Focusing predominately on England, the report criticises delays in introducing a county wide lockdown. The delays in dealing with the pandemic meant that certain vulnerable groups such as care home residents and people with learning disabilities were particularly susceptible to the virus, and the government did not prioritise the social care sector at the outset. In particular the report criticises the rapid discharge of patients from hospitals into care homes. Also lack of testing of social care staff meant that the virus could enter care homes from the community.
The problems the social care sector faced at the outset of the pandemic is certainly reflected in matters we have dealt with – care homes had no access to testing for example, and there was confusing and contradictory official advice that changed very regularly. For social care organisations facing claims regarding COVID-19 infections in the first few months of the pandemic, it is difficult to see what more they could have done when the UK government was so slow to act.
These issues will no doubt be explored further in the judge led inquiry into the UK’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to take place in Spring 2022 – albeit we are only around six months away from the proposed start of that inquiry, and a chair and terms of reference have not yet been confirmed.
It will also be interesting to see what is said in the final hearing in the judicial review brought by Dr Cathy Gardener and Fay Harris regarding the government’s failure to protect care home residents. This hearing is due to take place next week.