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.Jump to downloads
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 It uses a range of published and unpublished data, the latter requested from public bodies under our statutory audit powers.
“This report demonstrates the enormous efforts of staff across health and social care to respond at speed to the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have not sought to evaluate government’s response in this report, our work raises some important considerations.
“The speed and nature of the response in health and social care has been shaped by longstanding differences between the sectors and ongoing financial pressures. Government’s ability to increase beds, ventilators, PPE and testing has varied in part because of the number of other bodies, both national and international, with which it has had to engage. All of these issues need to be taken into account as government plans for the later phases of the pandemic and future emergencies.”Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO
- Report - Readying the NHS and adult social care in England for COVID-19 (.pdf — 561 KB)
- Summary - Readying the NHS and adult social care in England for COVID-19 (.pdf — 117 KB)
- ePub - Readying the NHS and adult social care in England for COVID-19 (.epub — 2 MB)
- ISBN: 9781786043191 [Buy a hard copy of this report]
- HC: 367, 2019-2021
View press release (12 Jun 2020)