NPC GS tells People’s Covid Inquiry that care funding cuts may have impacted badly on scale of tragedy
Years of government funding cuts and neglect of the UK care sector meant it was tragically unprepared for the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
National Pensioners’ Convention General Secretary Jan Shortt made the claim in a scathingly “excoriating testimony on the gross failures of the government in letting down at risk groups” to the second session of the People’s Covid Inquiry (10 March).
Jan told the Inquiry panel: “Before the pandemic hit, the NHS and care sector were really struggling. Our organisation and others, including academics, have been begging the government to properly reform and fund social care. But the government has not been listening.
“We cannot say none of this would have happened if they had, but they would have been in a lot better position to deal with it, had the health sector had enough staff, enough money and enough resources like Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). It is not true (as the Health Secretary recently said) that the sector had everything it needed – staff were using bin bags and sharing masks to try and protect themselves.”
With the United Kingdom currently recording more than 125,000 Covid-19 deaths - 188.3 per 100,000 – it now has the highest rate of Coronavirus fatality per head of population in the world. Around 25% of those deaths occurred in UK care homes.
The People's Covid Inquiry - under the auspices of Keep Our NHS Public - will examine the Government’s overall Covid-19 strategy. For example, how it controlled the spread of infection, the timing and extent of ‘lockdowns’ and their impact on case numbers, as well as the implications for death rates. The Inquiry has no legal powers but has gathered a panel of health experts to follow Public Inquiry format to question witnesses providing evidence. The findings will be presented to the government who are deferring a full Public Inquiry until the pandemic is over. This has led to fears that delaying the Inquiry, also delays access to vital information that might save lives now.
Dr John Puntis, Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public who introduced the session, said: “We are here to ask, ‘was the scale of the tragic loss of life in the UK during the pandemic avoidable?’ We all deserve to know why this happened.”