CoronaVirus United Kingdom World News

UK Introduces Emergency Bill To Strengthen (COVID-19) Response

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New laws will be introduced to protect public health, increase NHS capacity, strengthen social care and support the public to take the right action at the right time.

Emergency measures to give ministers powers to take the right action at the right time to respond effectively to the progress of the coronavirus outbreak will be introduced to Parliament this week, the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has today set out.

The measures in the Coronavirus bill are temporary, proportionate to the threat, will only be used when strictly necessary and will be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation.

They are intended to protect life and the nation’s public health and ensure NHS and social care staff are supported to deal with significant extra pressure on the health system.

They fall into 5 key categories:

  • containing and slowing the virus
  • easing legislative and regulatory requirements
  • enhancing capacity and the flexible deployment of staff across essential services
  • managing the deceased in a dignified way
  • supporting and protecting the public to do the right thing and follow public health advice

To ensure the NHS and adult social care have the additional staff capacity they need to respond to increasing demands on services during the outbreak, the powers enabled by the bill will allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work without any negative repercussions to their pensions.

NHS staff will also be covered by a state-backed insurance scheme to ensure they can care for patients if, for example, they are moving outside their day-to-day duties while making use of their skills and training.

Paperwork and administrative requirements will be reduced to help doctors discharge patients more quickly when clinically appropriate, to free up hospital space for those who are very ill and enable clinicians to focus on delivering care.

Volunteers will have extra employment safeguards, allowing them to pause their main jobs for up to 4 weeks while they help care for patients in the health and care system, and will receive a flat rate of compensation to mitigate lost earnings and expenses. This could benefit more than 3 million people who already volunteer in health and care settings and bolster the NHS’s capacity to respond to the virus.

Changes to councils’ duties under the Care Act will enable them to prioritise people with the greatest care needs and make the best use of the adult social care workforce.