Government report warned care homes were unprepared for pandemic


A government report published three years ago warning that care homes were unprepared for a possible pandemic has been published.

The Exercise Cygnus report, which was based on a government simulation of an influenza pandemic, was published by The Guardian.

The report contained a number of recommendations, including increasing care home capacity and staff numbers and warned of the difficulties of admitting hospital patients into care homes.

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When asked about the report in April, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said he had been assured by his officials that the report’s recommendations had been implemented.

News of the three-year-old study and its findings caused consternation in the social care sector, however.

Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO, Care England, said its concerns on the ability of care homes to handle hospital discharges and the need to increase capacity were not raised with his members.

Martin said: “This is a report that made some really clear recommendations that haven’t been implemented. If they had put in place a response to everyone, we would have been in a much better place at the start of this pandemic.”

A government spokesperson responded: “The UK is one of the most prepared countries in the world and, as the public would expect, we regularly test our plans – what we learned from previous exercises helped us to rapidly respond to this unprecedented global crisis.

“We have followed a science-led action plan designed at all times to save lives and support our NHS. Our planning helped prevent the NHS being overwhelmed and means we are now moving past the peak of the virus.”

The DHSC said the government had been “extremely proactive” in implementing lessons learnt around pandemic preparedness, including Exercise Cygnus. This included planning for recruitment and deployment of retired staff and volunteers, and improving plans to flex systems and expand beyond normal capacity levels. The DHSC added the lessons learnt from Exercise Cygnus continued to be considered by government and other stakeholders in reviewing response plans.

Tags : CoronavirusResearch

The author Lee Peart


  1. I’ve recently had cause to query the level of fees at my mother’s care home and in my investigation came across the CMA guidelines to care homes published in November 2018 with a follow up to check progress in November 2019. Although a couple of homes have been ‘brought to task’, I found that there were some basics requirements that my mother’s care home were not ‘complying with’. I have had a positive result from the care home (re: fees) but I am presently considering whether I should take matters further with regard to what appears to be lack of action and communication between care homes and the government.

  2. The question is that if this is what the report suggested then why has the Government not taken action to rectify this. Little point in carrying out an exercise if you going to hide & ignore the results until after the event!

  3. Not all care homes are unprepared. My care has pandemic preparednesss and response plan in place since February. We increased our stock of PPE’s which includes buying N99 mask, eye protector, faceshield and coveralls. We have hired more staff and bank staff. We closed the home before the government’s guidance. We trained our residents and staff about the virus and handwashing. We have an exit plan in place at the moment. Before we close the home to visitors, we have facebook, skype, facetime and whatApp in place for family to communicate. We had a training for the staff how to managed symptoms of covid-19 in care homes. All our advance care plan has been updated.

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