Coronavirus has exposed long known weaknesses in government and divisions in wider society, an official parliamentary watchdog has said, including neglect of social care and chronic underfunding in local government.
Amid renewed questions over the reopening timetable, the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that from the very start of the pandemic a lack of planning had left ministers without a “playbook” on how to respond.
“I don’t see anything conclusive at the moment to say that we need to deviate from the roadmap,” Johnson said, adding that more would be known “in a few days’ time.”
A number of cabinet ministers are understood to be reluctant to allow the roadmap to slip unless there is compelling evidence that the spread of the variant could pose a threat to NHS capacity. [Ed: Apparently any threat to citizens is of no concern to this Tory government.]
Johnson is charged with making the call on whether to proceed with the roadmap, with intense scrutiny over the early weeks of the pandemic, and the charge he allowed the B.1.617.2 variant to establish itself in the UK by delaying curbing arrivals from India, jeopardising a planned summer timetable for reopening the economy.
The NAO report highlighted the need for long-term solutions across areas including:
- The disconnect between adult social care and the NHS
- Failings in data and IT systems
- Workforce shortages
- Ongoing monetary shortfalls [austerity]
- Warning that already-struggling local government finances had been “scarred by the pandemic”.
An impact of this was a better response to the pandemic for health services than for care. From March to July last year, NHS trusts received 80% of their estimated requirements for protective equipment, with the equivalent figure for care providers being just 10%, the NAO said.
It also set out the effects of underfunding, often due to a decade of austerity policies, in areas including councils, the NHS and social care.
The NAO also highlighted findings from its earlier reports about:
- Staffing shortages
- 11% vacancy rates in nursing just before the pandemic
- One-third of social care providers saying they needed extra staff