MPs have delivered a blistering attack on the Government’s handling of social care during coronavirus.
They called it ‘slow, inconsistent and, at times, negligent’ and described the discharge of elderly patients from hospitals into care homes as an ‘appalling error'.
The MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also blamed the ‘tragic impact’ of ‘years of inattention, funding cuts and delayed reforms to the sector’ leaving care as the ‘poor relation’ to the NHS during the pandemic.
In their report, the MPs criticised the lack of central direction over social care with responsibility spread across local authorities, Whitehall and providers.
They said the decision to discharge 25,000 patients into care homes in March and early April without testing for the virus was ‘shocking’ and an 'appalling error’ and said the pandemic exposed the ‘tragic impact’ of delaying social care reform.
The PAC has given the Government a deadline of October to outline in writing ‘what it will be doing, organisationally, legislatively and financially, and by when to make sure the needs of social care are given as much weight as those of the NHS in future'.
PAC chair Meg Hiller said: ‘The deaths of people in care homes devastated many, many families.
'They and we don’t have time for promises and slogans, or exercises in blame.
'We weren’t prepared for the first wave.
'Putting all else aside, government must use the narrow window we have now to plan for a second wave.
'Lives depend upon getting our response right.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'Throughout this unprecedented global pandemic we have been working closely with the sector and public health experts to put in place guidance and support for adult social care.
'Alongside an extra £1.3bn to support the hospital discharge process, we have provided 172 million items of PPE to the social care sector since the start of the pandemic and are testing all residents and staff, including repeat testing for staff and residents in care homes for over 65 or those with dementia.'