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Any Covid inquiry should consider primary care support to care homes, says think tank

Care staff

By Jess Hacker
4 May 2021

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Any inquiry into the Government’s response to Covid-19 should consider how primary care supported social care during the pandemic, a think tank has said.

The King’s Fund has called for work to start ‘immediately’ on establishing a public inquiry on Covid and published a report detailing the scope needed.

The report said that changes to the delivery of NHS care during the pandemic had impacted the way social care providers could protect residents from infection – and the cooperation between social care and health services should therefore be looked at.

This includes considering the ‘support from primary care and community health teams to care homes, and to those receiving care in their own homes’, it said, as well as discharge policies and practices from hospitals to care homes.

An inquiry must also consider if people who received social care had continued access to services for both their Covid and non-Covid health needs, as well as looking at the delivery of vaccinations to care staff and service users, it added.

The King’s Fund said that an inquiry will help to the country to better prepare for a future pandemic and improve understanding of its public health systems’ strengths and weaknesses.

PPE and infection control

An inquiry should also consider the supply of PPE to social care staff and policies on restricting visits to care homes, the King’s Fund said, as well as the Government’s ability to provide clear and timely guidance to providers and employers.

In addition to the adult social care response, the report outlined four other key areas that it said an inquiry on Covid should consider. These included:

  • The public health response, including rules over international travel and the timing and extent of lockdowns.
  • The health care system’s response, including the reorganisation of services to maximise acute hospital and critical care capacity, the clinical quality of care, services for non-Covid-19 patients and the vaccination programme.
  • The ‘intrinsic risk’ to England, including its population demographics, health status, openness to international travel, and social structure.
  • Measures in the wider economy and society to manage the impact of the measures taken to combat Covid-19, including macro-economic and tax measures, education and employment.

Inquiry should not be ‘shunted’

Sally Warren, director of policy at the King’s Fund, said: ‘Learning the lessons from Covid-19 would allow England to better prepare for any future pandemic and to understand the general weaknesses and strengths of its health, care and public health systems.

‘Given the wide-ranging nature of the pandemic and its impact on so many people’s lives and livelihoods, a public inquiry to assess the response is essential.’

She added: ‘The suggestion that everyone in Government is too busy for an inquiry is a poor excuse. There are first steps that can be taken to establish the inquiry – such as appointing an independent chair or agreeing term of reference – that will not distract from the efforts of public servants responding to Covid-19.’

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