Initial lessons from the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic Contents


The COVID-19 pandemic has tested government’s preparedness for, and ability to respond to, a major emergency with wide-ranging health, social and economic impacts. The Government’s response to the pandemic has been least effective in areas that we have repeatedly reported on, including data quality and data sharing, co-ordination between central and local government, and staffing and resilience in the health and social care sectors. The pandemic response has highlighted the importance of clear, timely and effective government communications to enable the public to understand the reasons for key decisions, the trade-offs being made and what it needs to do.

Following our earlier examinations of personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement, we remain concerned that despite spending over £10 billion on supplies, the PPE stockpile is not fit for purpose. Of the 32 billion items of PPE ordered by the Department of Health & Social Care as of 17 May 2021, 11 billion have been distributed, 12.6 billion are stored in the UK as central stock, and 8.4 billion are on order from other parts of the world and are not yet in the UK. Potential waste levels are unacceptably high, with 2.1 billion items of PPE unsuitable for being used in medical settings, equating to over £2 billion of taxpayers’ money. For the excess PPE suitable for a medical environment, the Government is yet to create any robust plans and arrangements for repurposing and distributing this essential stock in a way which ensures value for money and protects staff and patients.

Published: 25 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement