A new report, COVID-19: Government procurement and supply of Personal Protective Equipment, published by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, outlines PPE supply shortages in the social care sector during the first wave of the pandemic.
With reference to the Department of Health and Social Care’s response during the first wave of the pandemic, the report said the Department’s focus on hospitals meant that assistance on social care providers was neglected and even described the social care sector as the NHS’s ‘poor relation’. MPs said that the social care sector was only taken seriously by the Government after the high mortality rate in care homes became apparent.
The Department of Health and Social Care provided 1.9 billion items of PPE to NHS trusts, between March 2020 and July 2020, equivalent to 80% of their need. The report said this compared to the 331 million items of PPE provided to the adult social care sector – just 10% of its estimated need. Social care representatives told MPs that their usual supplies could not provide PPE, in part because some of it was diverted to the NHS and consequently some providers ran out of PPE.
The report said 25,000 people were discharged to care homes from hospitals and some people were not tested for COVID-19, after it had become clear that people could transmit the virus without having any symptoms.
MPs wrote the following recommendation to the DHSC: ‘The department should write to the committee by the end of the April 2021 to explain how it will revise its emergency response plans, so that they can include who will be supported, how and when. This must give appropriate weight to all sectors of health and social care, as well as occupations outside these sectors which are also at risk.’
Commenting on today’s Commons Public Accounts Committee report, Social Care Institute for Excellence Chief Executive Kathryn Smith said, ‘When the pandemic hit, we said on many occasions that there was an ongoing need for both PPE supplies and training on how to use it; along with Covid-19 testing. Many social care providers had to find their own PPE supplies for some time. We also know that the first lockdown was a challenge, not just for care settings but also for policymakers who had to act quickly.
‘This report is important because the sector and policymakers can take some of the lessons learnt and apply them to the vaccination programme as this is rolled out to all care settings and to those who are most vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19.'
Visit the UK Parliament website to read the full report.