Background to the report
On 31 January 2020, England’s Chief Medical Officer confirmed the first cases of COVID-19 in England. Over the following months, the UK government mobilised a wide-ranging response to COVID-19, covering health, social care and other public services, and support to individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic.
On 17 March, NHS England and NHS Improvement set out in a letter the measures that national and local NHS bodies should take to prepare for a surge in infections. After issuing various pieces of guidance to the adult social care sector from 13 March onwards, the Department for Health & Social Care published an action plan for adult social care on 15 April. There have been many other developments throughout the pandemic, but these two documents are key to understanding the government’s health and social care initial response.
Content and scope of the report
This report is the second in a programme of work by the National Audit Office to support Parliament’s scrutiny of the UK government’s response to COVID-19. It sets out the facts about government’s progress in preparing the NHS and social care for the COVID-19 outbreak, with a focus on:
- actions set out in the 17 March letter to the NHS, and the 15 April action plan for adult social care. It also describes what is currently known about additional funding for health and adult social care;
- actions taken at a national level by those responsible for coordinating health, adult social care and local government in England; and
- the period from the start of the outbreak to at least the end of April, when the government announced that the UK was “past the peak”. Depending on the data available at the time of writing, we have provided information up to mid-May.
The report does not assess the value for money of the measures adopted by government or the effectiveness of its response. It uses a range of published and unpublished data, the latter requested from public bodies under our statutory audit powers.