Last reviewed 30 July 2020

The Government’s “slow, inconsistent, and at times, negligent approach” to social care in the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the “appalling error” of thousands of patients being discharged from hospitals into care homes without comprehensive Covid-19 testing, meaning care homes were “effectively thrown to the wolves.”

This is the conclusion of a new report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee.

The report by MPs of the Committee claims the pandemic has exposed the “tragic impact” of “years of inattention, funding cuts and delayed reforms”, which has left the social care sector as a “poor relation”.

The Committee is demanding from Government a “three-point plan” by September 2020, ahead of a second Covid-19 wave, covering health, the economy and procurement of medical supplies and equipment.

In particular, the report notes the “appalling error” committed early on in the pandemic, when 25,000 patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes without ensuring all were first tested for Covid-19 — even, the report says, “after there was clear evidence of asymptomatic transmission of the virus”.

The Committee says the NHS was — just — able to weather the challenges in England during the pandemic’s April 2020 peak but that “unfortunately, it has been a very different story for adult social care”.

The report highlights concerns about staff in health and social care “who have endured the strain and trauma of responding to Covid-19 for many months” and who are now expected to cope with future peaks and enormous backlogs.

It adds that failure to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) has hit staff morale and confidence, while a lack of timely testing led to increased stress and absence.

Commenting on the report, Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said, “Our care homes were effectively thrown to the wolves, and the virus has ravaged some of them”.