Adult social care services struggled to deal with the coronavirus pandemic because of poor communication between Whitehall and local government, according to a new report.
The report by the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) also found that the large number of care homes and the ‘poor quality’ of national plans also impacted the ability of care services to respond during the crisis.
It also concluded that planning failures and funding cuts meant public services in general were not well prepared to handle the coronavirus crisis.
The report comes after a cross-party group of MPs accused the government of having a ‘slow, inconsistent, and at times negligent approach’ to social care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the new Institute for Government and CIPFA report found that government plans were too focused on a flu pandemic, with not enough attention paid to the possibility of other types of pandemic.
It concluded that good planning ensured that hospitals could respond well to the first wave, but high staff vacancies and a maintenance backlog will make it far harder to restart routine NHS services.
And planning for a no-deal Brexit in 2019 meant the Department of Health and Social Care had a greater understanding of how supply chains would be disrupted in a pandemic and had improved its stockpiles of some drugs.
‘Frontline staff have performed remarkably during the crisis, in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. But public services have faltered due to decisions made over the past decade,’ said the Institute for Government’s programme director, Nick Davies.
‘Greater investment in staff, buildings and equipment would have left services far better placed to respond to coronavirus. The government must learn from these mistakes, reflect on where public services are least resilient, and ensure that key services are better prepared for either a second wave of coronavirus or any future pandemic.’
And CIPFA’s chief executive, Rob Whiteman added: ‘A decade of austerity has resulted in over-stretched and under-resourced public services that were already facing rising demand before the pandemic struck. Covid-19 supercharged these pressures, with adult social care facing particular strain.
‘In addition to meeting the additional costs resulting from the pandemic and enhancing emergency planning procedures, the government must utilise the current momentum as a catalyst for adult social care reform.’
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