Officials from the Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) will interview internal candidates for the ‘newly created and high-level’ post, with a salary of up to £ 61,000, in the first two weeks of September.
According to the announcement, posted on the government’s internal system, the successful candidate will have to implement “lessons learned” from Covid-19, including “reviewing our approach to supply and storage in the event of a pandemic”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there were “difficulties” in obtaining an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the first weeks of the pandemic.
He has come under fierce attack due to shortages of masks, gowns and other essential kits – and has vowed to build up the NHS stockpile for future outbreaks.
Phantom Labor Minister of Health Justin Madders said: ‘We needed the government to be prepared for a pandemic, but it feels like closing the stable door after the horse ran away . ”
He added: “It is now very clear how ill-prepared the nation was initially and how it ignored the warnings of many exercises.
“The government has been too slow on lockdown, too slow on PPE, and too slow on testing – this is just another example of the Conservatives trying to catch up with what’s needed.”
A DHSC source said many aspects of the new role are already being taken on by various civil service teams.
But the team has been “expanded to ensure that our preparedness for all types of pandemic threats is strong and comprehensive.”
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it was common practice to learn lessons and implement them after a major response.
A spokesperson said: “This is not a whole new role – we have an experienced pandemic preparedness team in place for many years who have covered these responsibilities through a number of different positions.
“It just reflects an expansion and merging of different teams.”
The post is advertised at grade 7 of the civil service ladder – several steps under the highest ministerial roles.
He will sit within the Directorate of Emergencies and Health Protection, which, according to the announcement, “plays an essential role in preparing for and responding to all types of national incidents, such as epidemics or disease. terrorist attacks ”.
It will also be about “providing political leadership across the health and care system” to prepare for future threats from infectious diseases.
They will function in addition to an existing team working on preparations for an influenza pandemic – instead focusing on potential outbreaks of Ebola, MERS and SARS.
And they will have to develop “major intergovernmental exercises” – simulations to test the weaknesses of the system.
In May, a report of such an exercise from Whitehall condemned the UK’s ‘insufficient’ preparedness for a pandemic like Covid-19.
The analysis, based on a 2016 simulation of an influenza pandemic and dubbed “Exercise Cygnus,” identified major issues related to government preparedness.
The document identified a “lack of joint tactical plans” for a public health emergency, with demand for services exceeding local capacities.
And he warned that the capacity and staff of nursing homes were insufficient to deal with a full-scale pandemic.
The report states: ‘The UK’s preparedness and response, in terms of plans, policies and capacities, is currently not sufficient to cope with the extreme demands of a severe pandemic that will impact scale. national in all sectors. ”
When the case first leaked, DHSC said the government had been “extremely proactive” in implementing lessons learned around pandemic preparedness, including Exercise Cygnus.