Readying the NHS for COVID-19
This submission for Parliament's Public Accounts Committee inquiry, "Readying the NHS and social care for the COVID-19 peak" examines a range of issues including the development of the UK's testing capacity and contact tracing system, capacity to withstand a second peak later in the year and PPE provision.
- Trusts and colleagues in the wider health and care system have worked incredibly hard to meet the unprecedented challenge presented by COVID-19. Their achievements in transforming care at pace to ensure the NHS was not overwhelmed are significant.
- However, the pandemic has laid bare years of underfunding in social care with a clear need for cross party support in placing the social care system on a sustainable footing.
- Well publicised challenges in securing a sufficient, steady supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) exacerbated by global competition, raise questions about the UK’s preparedness for a pandemic.
- Although progress has been made to improve the testing regime and clarify the government’s strategy to test and trace, issues still exist with obtaining routine tests for staff and patients. The development of the testing regime has been hampered by dispersed and unclear accountability between Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs) and government.
- Retaining vital capacity for a possible second peak later this year will be challenging. Trusts will need to strike a balance between resuming some routine services and keeping sufficient space and staff on standby for a subsequent wave of COVID-19.
- In order for NHS trusts to respond effectively and implement operational change at the frontline, government and the national bodies need to ensure they are consulted and given due notice on national policy changes.