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UK failed in planning for pandemic leaving people vulnerable, report exposes on Wednesday

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Findings have highlighted key issues in the handling of the pandemic, as COVID has exposed UK’s existing weaknesses in social care and underfunding of local services

A report released on Wednesday 19th May has illustrated and drawn attention to several failures of the UK government with regards to handling and managing the pandemic, with concerns for preparedness in future emergencies also a factor as delays in early critical responses from the government have caused alarm throughout the pandemic.

The report comprised of more than a dozen industry findings and reports on COVID and the pandemic, and fundamentally suggested that a complete overhaul was required systemically in creating contingency plans for emergencies.

The National Audit Office (NAO) warned that from the beginning of the pandemic that there was no script to go by with regards to actions taken, leaving the government without a ‘playbook’ on how to respond.

NAO said that the virus has ‘laid bare existing fault lines within society, such as the risk of widening inequalities, and within public service delivery and government itself”.

The NAO report has highlighted and reiterated the necessity of long-term changes with real solutions across the emergency planning area.

The disconnect between adult social care and the NHS has been a particular cause for concern, as highlighted in statistics showing the number of COVID death in care homes, amidst allegations of mishandling and underfunding in the areas where our most vulnerable are supposed to be looked after.

Finds from The Health Foundation found further evidence that the government acted too slowly or did not do enough to support social care users and staff, and that ultimately social care and protecting the delivering of such has been given far lower priority than the NHS.

Credit: Dominic Lipinski/AP Boris Johnson during a media briefing on Covid in January 2021

From March to July of 2020, NHS trusts received 80% of their estimated requirements for protective equipment, with the equivalent rate for care providers being just 10%, according to the NATO report.

During the first wave of COVID, commonly referred to as between March and June of 2020, Of the 48,213 Covid deaths registered between mid-March and mid-June, 40% were care home residents.

The report said: ‘On social care, a lack of integration between care services and the NHS and been challenging for decades.’

A government spokesperson said:

“Throughout the pandemic, our approach has been guided by data and the advice of scientific experts. As new evidence emerged, we acted quickly and decisively to protect lives and livelihoods.

We have committed to a full public independent inquiey to look at what lessons we can learn from our response to this unprecedented global challenge.”

For many years now, our society has been plagued with growing inequalities, with a culmination of wealth inequality hitting fever pitch over the last few decades especially under Conservative rule, with them branded the ‘party of billionaires’ as one-third of UK’s richest people donate to them.

Coronavirus In 2016, the ONS calculated that the richest 10% of households hold 44% of all wealth. The poorest 50%, by contrast, own just 9%.Even worse, for the UK as a

Image Credit: Kings College London

whole, the World Inequality Database found that the top 0.1% had share of total wealth double between 1984 and 2013, reaching 9%.

The COVID pandemic has reiterated and exposed the cracks in a system that was already at breaking point. The virus was just the catalyst for the now undeniably visible ruptures in our preparedness for a pandemic, and the toll it has taken on some of our most vulnerable citizens.

The post-pandemic time period is a potentially unique opportunity that policy makers have to not just simply improve existing services but use the information in the NATO analysis and other findings from charity organisations to truly tackle the glaring problems that our society has been under the strain of for some time, with COVID the final straw on our services.

It was apparent from the magnitude of the pandemic as it emerged in early 2020 that that strain on our NHS and social services were to be expected.

However, the workers and institutions under-funded and ill-equipped to handle the pandemic in the initial stage, and the terrible loss of life that occurred across the social care sector with evidence of inefficient protection provided must be used as an example of what happens when a viable pandemic plan doesn’t even exist: unnecessary deaths, by the hundreds.

Featured Image Credit: Kings College London

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