The Government should immediately establish a public inquiry into England’s response to Covid-19, and it should consider the relationship between primary care and social care, the King’s Fund health think tank has said.
The think tank added that the ‘essential’ inquiry must consider how primary care supported social care during the pandemic, in a report published at the end of last month setting out recommendations around what an inquiry could look like.
It said 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 the country to better prepare for a future pandemic and improve understanding of its public health systems’ strengths and weaknesses.
In addition, the inquiry should consider the supply of PPE to social care staff and policies on restricting visits to care homes, as well as the Government’s ability to provide clear and timely guidance to providers and employers.
Other key areas it said should be looked at 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.
Sally Warren, director of policy at the King’s Fund, said: ‘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.’
Last month, umbrella bodies warned the Government that ssocial care sector is ‘on its knees’ and in ‘desperate’ need of reform.
A version of this article was originally published on Nursing in Practice‘s sister title Healthcare Leader.