Social care leaders have welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to hold an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during PM’s questions yesterday, Mr Johnson said it was not the right time for an inquiry but there “certainly” would be one in “the future”.
Nadra Ahmed OBE, executive chairman of the National Care Association, told CHP: “We believe that there was an inevitability that a public inquiry would have had to have been held in relation to the government response to the pandemic. The fact that there has been a loss of life at the scale we have seen it is important that all questions and concerns are addressed. Bereaved families need to understand how the responses to the pandemic impacted the lives of their loved ones. We hope that an inquiry will enable government to learn crucial lessons to avoid making the same mistakes again.”
Social care has been on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic with 20,000 care home residents having died with the virus.
The toll on staff has been significant too with a recent report showing the UK had one of the highest COVID-19 death rates amongst health and social care workers.
Sophie Kemp, public law partner at Kingsley Napley LLP, said: “A public inquiry is essential to understand why we have had so many deaths as a result of COVID-19, particularly in the BAME community and in care homes across the country.”
She said the inquiry was likely to focus on three areas: early decision making/pandemic planning; discharging patients to care homes; and PPE guidance, supply and resourcing.
The government has faced criticism for being slow to provide guidance and PPE support to care home operators at the onset of the pandemic, while 25,000 people were discharged from hospital to care homes without testing between 17 March and 15 April.
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO, Care England, said: “It is right and proper that a public inquiry takes place, but as the Prime Minister says, some sections of society, including adult social care, are still in the midst of it. We cannot have a post mortem while the patient is still alive; however we must ensure that the same mistakes do not happen again and do all that we can to guard against the spread of the virus. Social care, in terms of those who work in it and are cared for, have borne the brunt of the pandemic and it is important to learn from these lessons. Real integration between health and social care rather than an obsessive focus on the NHS would be a big step forward.”
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, welcomed plans for an independent inquiry but said the real priority was to end the crisis in the care of older and vulnerable people.
“A full, independent inquiry is a good thing and we hope that lessons are learned from it,” Mike said. “However, the real and present danger lies in the state of social care today and we cannot wait for an inquiry to prompt action.”