This website is intended for healthcare professionals


UK government missed opportunities to prepare social care for COVID-19 pandemic

A report published by the Nuffield Trust and London School of Economics focused on the first four months of the pandemic and examined the issues which emerged in the sector.

The UK government and health leaders missed opportunities to prepare social care for a pandemic, a new report revealed today.

A report published by the Nuffield Trust and London School of Economics focused on the first four months of the pandemic and examined the issues which emerged in the sector.

It found that the government, NHS England and Public Health England excluded social care from pandemic-planning exercises such as Exercise Alice.

While not addressing problems that were found from exercises that did include social care such as Operation Cygnus.

To read more on this topic, please visit: 

How will the NHS cope if social care fails?

NHS and social care to receive boost in funding

Problems in the social care system 'absolutely immense'

Deputy director of policy at the Nuffield Trust, Natasha Curry said: ‘ What happened to social care at the start of the pandemic represents the consequences of letting one of our most important public services languish in constant crisis for years.

Those early months exposed an array of weaknesses within social care that impacted the shape, speed and effectiveness of the response. Many of these difficult challenges could have been eased had warnings been heeded.’

Other key findings were that the emergency funding pots offered to social care initially took a long time to reach the front line and their short-term nature prevented strategic planning.

While no adult social care representatives sat on the Advisory Group for Emergencies in the first weeks of the pandemic meaning leaders of the sector felt invisible.

The report also concluded that the government did not adequately consider the fragile state and the complexity of the sector’s infrastructure, in particular residential care buildings and equipment.

Small organisations did not have the back office capacity to constantly be interpreting the updated guidance and outdated buildings made it difficult to accommodate infection control measures.

Adelina Comas-Herrera, report co-author from the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre at LSE said: ‘The pandemic has had a tragic impact on people who use social care and those who provide care, unpaid and paid. This has been a shared experience internationally but the evidence suggests that some countries were able to cope better than others.

‘We are seeing how countries such as Ireland, Finland and Spain are using lessons from the pandemic to reform their care systems. Our research shows that social care in England needs a system-wide reform to be able to respond not just to emergencies but to the implications of longevity and competition for workforce with other sectors.’

Since the pandemic the DHSC has attempted to make progress by bolstering its social care capacity and expertise as well as appointing a director general, the first since 2016, and also a chief social care nurse.

The Nuffield Trust also reported the rollout of vaccinations in social care settings pointed to improved collaboration between the government and social care partners and the prioritisation of carers in the vaccination rollout was widely regarded as a positive step forward.

Minister for Care, Helen Whately responded to the report with: ‘ During the pandemic we supported social care with £2.9 billion in specific COVID funding, sent out more than 230 million Covid tests to care homes and prioritised social care for Covid vaccinations.

‘We are committed to learning lessons from the pandemic and are investing up to £7.5 billion over the next two years to put social care on a stronger financial footing, help reduce waiting lists and alleviate workforce pressures.’