Government needs a PPE plan for second wave of Coronavirus
The Public Accounts Committee report warns the Government is still not treating the procurement of PPE with sufficient urgency.
The committee says it is “absolutely vital” that the same problems do not happen again in the event of a second wave, but uncertainty still prevails around future provision of local PPE across the health and social care sectors.
Within two months of this report the PAC expects the Department for Health and Social Care to clarify its governance arrangements and outline when it expects to have a predictable supply of stock and ready access to PPE supply within the NHS and care sectors.
This should include detail on the roles and responsibilities for the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment across NHS and social care settings.
The NHS is now attempting to clear the extensive backlog of screening and treatment that developed during the first wave, and return to more routine and planned services again.
This is against the backdrop of a range of pre-crisis performance measures it was struggling to meet, the report says.
PAC says the NHS now needs a coherent plan for how it will function after the peak of the COVID-19 crisis.
The crisis cannot be used as an excuse not to address long-standing issues, highlighted in previous PAC reports, such as workforce shortages, coherent and aligned capital investment strategies, and tackling trust deficits.
As part of the preparation for Covid-19 “to protect the NHS and save lives” the government provided significant additional funding to the NHS, including writing off £13.4bn of loans.
But this, and funding for specific staffing and other support, do not address the underlying issues of the NHS financial sustainability the PAC has been highlighting for years – alongside reports on the increasingly poor performance against waiting times standards for A&E and cancer, and on the growing waiting lists for elective treatments.
In 2018-19, all NHS trusts in England were together running a combined net deficit of £827 million.
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “There must be total focus now on where the problems were in procurement and supply in the first wave, and on eradicating them.
“The pandemic has thrown the deep, long-term underlying problems in NHS capital and financial management into stark relief. There is no room and must be zero tolerance for allowing the underlying funding problems to continue.”