Covid: MPs’ report shows ‘multiple failings’ and ‘urgent need for public inquiry’ says Unison

Unison is calling for the public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic to start gathering evidence immediately

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A union representing NHS workers has called for a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic after a report criticised the UK’s response as one of the worst ever public health failures.

Unison believes the report shows a number of “lapses and failures” in the response to the pandemic.

The 150-page report, named ‘Coronavirus: Lessons learned to date’, is from the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, which contain MPs from all parties.

It predominantly focuses on the Government’s response to the pandemic in England, as the committee did not look at steps taken individually by Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

What did the report say?

The report said the Government approach, which was backed by its scientists, was to try to manage the situation and in effect, achieve herd immunity by infection, but that this led to a delay in the first lockdown being introduced and cost thousands of lives.

However, despite criticising the government’s delayed response to the Covid pandemic, it does touch upon the success of the coronavirus vaccination programme, describing the entire approach right through from the research and development stage to the rollout of the jabs, as "one of the most effective initiatives in UK history".

Call for public enquiry

But Unison, which represents NHS workers, believes the report shows a number of “lapses and failures” in the response to the pandemic and shows the need for a public enquiry.

Responding to the study produced by MPs, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “This report shows multiple lapses and failings in the approach and response to the pandemic, leading to countless needless deaths.

“It drives home the urgent need for the public inquiry to start gathering evidence immediately, to learn lessons and hold those responsible to account.”

Social care in crisis

Ms McAnea added that the MPs’ findings “also make a compelling case for the top to toe reform of social care the Government continues to ignore”.

This comes after it was announced in September that a new health and social care levy based on a 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance Contributions (NICs) will come into place to fund the Government’s plans to reform social care.

The rise in NICs will fund a £36 billion package over three years to help clear the NHS treatment backlog due to the Covid pandemic and reform social care, but it was announced social care will receive just £5.3 billion in the first three years of the levy, with the rest going to the NHS to clear the Covid backlog.

At the time of the social care funding announcement, Dr Ben Maruthappu, CEO and founder of social care provider Cera, who also served as an adviser to the UK government and NHS board during Covid, said: “Sadly, social care continues to be treated as the poorer sibling to the NHS, and we need to see greater levels of parity between the two.

“Additional funding is a big step in the right direction and is very much welcome, however it will take much more than just money to address the most pressing issues facing social care in the UK. For the two services to integrate more and work together productively, we need to see much greater equality in terms of investment and resources.”

Dr Maruthappu noted that although reducing the financial burden on those who require care is important, “it doesn’t address the core infrastructural challenge facing social care, which is a lack of capacity”.

He added: “There must also be a concerted effort to attract new talent into social care, to solve resourcing issues and help put people back to work after the pandemic in new and rewarding careers.”

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