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.
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.