This Commons Library briefing paper provides an overview of key issues facing the NHS and social care services during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, and links to official UK and international guidance and data. It also lists other reliable sources of information in the health and social care sector, including comment from organisations representing patients, staff and service providers. This briefing paper was last updated on 13 July 2020.

This briefing brings together and summarises some of the key issues that Members have raised on behalf of their constituents around the impact of coronavirus on the health and care sectors. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all the available guidance, for the latest information you should refer to the coronavirus pages on the Gov.uk and NHS websites. The World Health Organisation provides information on the international situation. The latest scientific and technical advice and evidence provided to support government decision making in its response to Covid-19 pandemic can be found on the UK Government webpage, Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

  • Section 1 of this briefing links to key coronavirus guidance for health and social care from the Government, NHS and Public Health England, particularly information for people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from Covid-19. It also covers advice for specific service areas, specific patient and public groups, and advice for health and care professionals. This includes information on supporting mental health and wellbeing.
  • Section 2 links to reliable UK and international sources of statistics on coronavirus.
  • Section 3 covers the Government’s Coronavirus Action Plan (3 March 2020), the Social Care Action Plan (15 April 2020), and the Covid-19 Recovery Strategy (11 May 2020), as well as emergency legislation, and earlier pandemic guidance.
  • Section 4 sets out the Government’s additional funding commitments for health and social care providers to meet the additional demands arising from the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Section 5 sets out some of the key workforce measures to support the health and care sectors, including encouraging new and returning staff, and volunteers.
  • Sections 6 and 7 link to guidance, announcements and comment on efforts to extend hospital capacity, and to increase the supply of personal protective equipment. A separate Library briefing paper, Coronavirus: Ventilator availability in the UK, provides an account of ventilator availability and procurement in the UK, a summary of government action, and a discussion of other issues associated with ventilator use.
  • Section 8 sets out some background on Government commitments to vaccine development and links to relevant briefings from the Lords Library and the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST).
  • Section 9 notes that NHS care for Covid-19 patients have been exempted from NHS overseas visitor charges.
  • Sections 10 and 11 link to other sources, including briefings from the Commons and Lords Libraries, POST, and the devolved parliamentary research services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Section 12 sets out some parliamentary material on the response of health and social care services to Covid-19, including ongoing inquiries by select committees.

The Commons Library Briefing paper, Coronavirus: Access to adult social care in England, provides an overview of changes to local authority duties around the provision of adult social care during the coronavirus outbreak. The changes were brought into force on 31 March 2020, under the Coronavirus Act 2020.

A further Library briefing, Coronavirus: Testing for Covid-19, covers the different types of test that are in use and in development, as well as testing capacity and the criteria for being tested. It also provides background on testing for NHS and social care staff. The latest information for individuals on getting tested can be found on the Gov.uk website. In terms of wider action to combat the spread of coronavirus, the Government launched a ‘NHS Test and Trace’ service on 27 May 2020 and is continuing to work on the development of a tracing app.

While the response to the coronavirus outbreak is being co-ordinated across the UK, health and social care services are largely devolved. The information in this briefing should be assumed to apply to England only, unless otherwise stated.