The failures committed by the UK government during the coronavirus pandemic contributed to a high number of deaths and put health and care staff at unnecessary risk, especially those from minority backgrounds. origin, MPs warn.
The Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee are now publishing a joint 150-page report examined the UK’s preliminary response to Covid-19 and took evidence from more than 50 witnesses.
“The lack of priority attached to social care is illustrated by the long-standing failure to provide social care with equal attention to the NHS”
The report, which makes nearly 40 recommendations, claims that decisions on lockdowns and social isolation in the first weeks of the pandemic “rank as one of the most significant public health failures. [UK] already experienced ”.
Pandemic planning in the UK has been accused of being “too narrow and inconvenient” based on a flu model that implies the country’s strategy is “less accomplished than other countries when it is most needed.”
While it is difficult to compare death rates among countries, MPs said that by 2020 the “UK has performed worse in terms of Covid deaths than many other countries”.
At the time of this writing, 161,798 deaths have been recorded across the UK citing Covid-19 on the death certificate.
A key problem in the UK’s response to the pandemic is that the government and the NHS have failed to recognize “significant risks to the social care sector at the onset of the pandemic”, the report said.
“The lack of priority attached to social care during the first phase of the pandemic illustrates a long-standing failure to provide social care with the same attention as the NHS,” it added.
The move to quickly evacuate people from hospitals to nursing homes without testing, along with untested staff working in settings, “has led to thousands deaths that can be avoided ”, admitted the MPs.
In May 2020, several months before the start, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergency (SAGE) had “adequate representation from the care community”.
“Without such penetration and more expertise, ministers lack essential advice to make important decisions,” the report said.
“The UK response has combined some major achievements with a number of mistakes”
Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark
This, along with staff shortages, lack of Covid-19 testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) and how to design some care settings for “communal living”, means that some providers “are not able to respond to risk as effectively as they should”, MPs explained.
“It has devastating and preventable consequences for people receiving care and their families and puts at risk staff providing social care,” they added.
The report continues to flag concerns about infection prevention and control (IPC) measures and cites evidence suggesting that there are “few resources to support [IPC] in the home care sector ”.
“In some areas qualified IPC support can be as little as a nurse’s infection control for 300 nursing homes,” it said.
Going forward, the committees urged the government to review the provision of IPC measures, including to IPC nurses, within social care, to “ensure that social care providers , especially homes that are cared for, can make regular pandemic preparation training ”.
Concerns were also echoed in the report about how Covid-19 has adversely affected people from minority backgrounds, and particularly people from backgrounds who work in the NHS and social care.
The report said “famously” that the first 10 NHS staff who died from Covid-19 were of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
“There is some evidence that even within these mainline roles, ethnic minority staff are more exposed to the risk of Covid -19 than their White counterparts,” according to the report – a concern previously reported in Watch Hours.
An example cited in the report is that in the first wave of the pandemic, “NHS staff from Black, Asian and minority backgrounds faced greater difficulty in accessing appropriate PPE. properly inserted “.
Staff from minority backgrounds have “felt empowered, less articulate and less able to express their concerns about the risk of PPE or any vulnerabilities they may have”, agrees Professor Kevin Fenton, regional director of Public Health England London, as quoted in the report.
MPs recommended the need for an “urgent and long -term” strategy to “address physical health inequalities and to address working conditions that place staff from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities at greater risk ”.
“Nurses continue to be humiliated by failures at the highest level”
Noting how staff should also be deployed in some cases to support areas affected during a pandemic, the report provides a number of recommendations to help staff shortages in case of any future national emergency.
In this regard, it was stated that in order to improve the experience of staff working to be “more flexible” during the Covid-19 era and to “make staff more flexible” in the health service, proposals should be developed by NHS England and education leaders to “better enable NHS staff to innovate mid-career clinical specialist and sub-specialty training”.
It also recommended the NHS should “create and publish new protocols for [IPC] of pandemics involving staff, bed capacity and physical infrastructure ”.
The government and the NHS were also urged to consider creating a “volunteer reserve database” where volunteers could be “more easily called and deployed in an emergency than having to start from scratch”.
In a joint statement to publish Coronavirus: lessons known to date, Jeremy Hunt, head of the Health and Social Care Committee, and Greg Clark, chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “The UK response has combined some major achievements with a number of mistakes.”
They praised the launch of the vaccination program in the UK which they said was “boldly planned and effectively implemented”.
They also paid tribute to NHS and care workers, “who have responded to the challenge with dedication, compassion and hard work to help the whole country through one of the darkest times”.
In response to the report, the chair of the Royal College of Nursing Council, Carol Popplestone, said it showed how nurses “continue to be subjected to failures at the highest level.
“Nursing staff throughout the health and care system are given false commitment to PPE and those in their care are put at risk of testing and monitoring failures,” Ms Popplestone added.
He also stated that staff shortages and lack of investment in care workers “mean that health and care services in time are under resource to cope with pandemic pressures”.
Meanwhile, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the council of the British Medical Association, said: “The way in which the government has neglected social care, inadequate provision and provision of PPE, and lack of proper risk assessment of health, especially for Black, Asian and ethnic minority staff, forced health and care staff to risk their lives to protect their patients. ”
A government spokesman said: “Throughout the night we have been guided by scientific and medical experts and we have never avoided taking swift and decisive action to save lives and protect our NHS, including introducing bans and lockdowns. “
They said they “avoided NHS services that could be overdone” and that the “immunization program was building a wall of defense”.
They pointed out that the government is “committed to learning lessons from the pandemic and is confident of conducting a full public inquiry in the spring”.