Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, responding to data showing the death toll from COVID-19 has exceeded 100,000 people in the UK, said:
‘This is a tragic milestone, and our deepest sympathy goes out to all those who have lost friends and family to COVID-19.
‘The scene for the current crisis was set long before the virus arrived. There has clearly been a lack of long-term planning and horizon scanning — and the investment across government and public agencies needed to do this. Underinvestment in public services has been ignored, leading to staffing shortages in the NHS, an obviously inadequate system for social care and cuts to public health grants over the last decade. This, plus a bias in decision-making towards the short term, has meant the country was not prepared and has struggled to find the capacity needed to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.
‘Decisions and action to protect people in care homes was late and inadequate. Over a quarter of deaths took place in care homes.
‘There was poor appreciation of the skills available in local authorities to help develop a strong test and trace system. Instead the government relied heavily on private contractors, many selected quickly without normal due diligence to cost or value, and the system has struggled to meet its own targets.
‘The pandemic has severely tested governments around the world. The toll of 100,000 deaths in the UK rightly raises huge questions as to how the pandemic was managed. There will need to be full inquiry to make sure lessons are learned for the future. Crucially, this will need to consider the extent to which existing health and economic inequalities in the UK, compared with other developed nations, made our experience far worse.’