Years of inattention, funding cuts and delayed reforms have been compounded by the government’s slow, inconsistent and, at times, negligent approach to giving the sector the support it needed during the pandemic. This is illustrated by the decision to discharge 25,000 patients from hospitals into care homes without making sure all were first tested for Covid-19, a decision that remained in force even after it became clear people could transfer the virus without ever having symptoms.
Reflecting on the government’s response to the pandemic so far, we are also particularly concerned by its failure to provide adequate PPE for the social care sector and testing to the millions of staff and volunteers who risked their lives to help us through the first peak of the crisis. The government needs to work urgently now to ensure that there is enough capacity—including both testing and PPE—and continued support for staff and volunteers so we are ready for future Covid peaks.
There are many lessons that the government must learn, not least giving adult social care equal support to the NHS and considering them as two parts of a single system, adequately funded and with clear accountability arrangements. No-one would expect government to get every decision right first-time round during such an emergency. Rather than seeking to give the impression that it has done so, the government urgently needs to reflect, acknowledge its mistakes, and learn from them as well as from what has worked.