Care houses were left exposed and vulnerable by a lack of individual protective equipment early in the pandemic, while the federal government‘s handling of the procurement left ministers open to allegations of conflicts of interest, MPs have actually discovered.
A damning report published on Wednesday by the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) concludes that the Department of Health and Social Care’s choice to prioritise health centers for PPE indicated care home employees and homeowners were not correctly secured.
” Frontline employees were left without sufficient products, risking their own and their families’ lives to provide treatment and care,” stated the committee’s chair, Meg Hillier. “We’re at a hazardous new stage of the pandemic, in our third national lockdown without any specified end in sight. The federal government needs to acknowledge the mistakes and be much better prepared.”
Ministers have been accused of running a “chumocracy” after it emerged that contracts worth ₤ 1.5 bn have been awarded to firms with links to the Conservative party during the pandemic.
Numerous agreements were awarded without correct tender processes and departments were criticised for not publishing a number of the information in the normal way.
The committee said the episode had actually left the federal government “open to allegations of bad worth for money, disputes of interest and favoritism of some suppliers”, while an absence of openness “weakens public trust in government procurement and the use of taxpayers’ cash”.
The committee discovered also that, while the federal government had a strategy and a stockpile of PPE in place, that proved inadequate to handle the pandemic.
The committee said care houses just got a fraction of the PPE needed compared to the health service– and were just taken seriously after their high death rates became apparent.
Overall, the committee stated frontline staff in both health and social care experienced scarcities of PPE, with some forced to reuse single-use items as stocks ran “perilously low”.
The findings recall problems made by the Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who spoke out about PPE scarcities after working in a momentary function as a carer throughout the pandemic.
Surveys by staff organisations found a minimum of 30% of care employees, medical professionals and nurses reported having insufficient PPE– even in high-risk settings.
” Many employees at the frontline in health and social care were put in the appalling situation of needing to take care of individuals with Covid-19 or thought Covid-19 without enough PPE to safeguard themselves from infection,” it said.
The committee’s findings follow on from two extremely vital reports published last November by the National Audit Workplace (NAO).
Concern over scarcities of PPE was a significant feature of the early stage of the pandemic as nations around the globe rushed for scarce supplies as the disease erupted across the globe.
The committee stated the scenario was particularly acute in the social care sector, which did not get “anywhere near sufficient” to meet its needs.
The committee criticisms over the lack of transparency around the procurement process echoed similar made by the NAO. In specific, the MPs indicated concerns over the so-called “high top priority lane”, where orders were placed with business on the basis of suggestions from MPs or other popular figures rather than those with know-how in the field.
” Leads that were thought about more reputable were those from federal government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and members of your house of Lords, but it is not clear why this assumption was made,” it said.
A Department of Health and Social Care representative stated: “We have been working tirelessly to acquire, produce and deliver PPE to over 58,000 settings, securing our health and social care staff on the frontline of this pandemic.
” As the public accounts committee recognises, the federal government dealt with substantial challenges in needing to quickly procure PPE at rate in a competitive global market. Thanks to the combined effort of government, NHS, armed forces, civil servants and market we have provided over 8.1 bn items of PPE at record speed.”