A lack of PPE in care homes and the receipt of patients from hospitals without testing "contributed significantly" to the high death toll in the sector during the first wave of the COVD-19 pandemic, a parliamentary committee has found.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee found the adult social care sector was only provided with 10% of the equipment it needed by the Department of Health and Social Care, compared to NHS trusts getting 80% of their needs fulfilled from March to July 2020.
The committee found that the situation in care homes was only taken seriously after the high number of deaths became apparent.
Some data suggested that upwards of 400 care home residents were dying every day during the peak of the first wave.
The committee said that frontline workers in both the health and the social care sectors suffered shortages of PPE - and some had to reuse single purpose items as stocks ran "perilously low".
"Many workers at the front line in health and social care were put in the appalling situation of having to care for people with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 without sufficient PPE to protect themselves from infection," it said.
This was exacerbated by the movement of patients out of hospitals without testing even after it was known that people without symptoms could be contagious.
"This contributed significantly to the deaths in care homes during the first wave," the committee added.
"Social care was only taken seriously after the high mortality rate in care homes became apparent."
While NHS trusts received 1.9 billion pieces of PPE, social care was only given 331 million items.
Between February and July 2020, the government spent £12bn on 32 billion items of PPE - of which hundreds of millions of pounds was "wasted" on unusable kit.
So-called 'high-priority lanes' have also been picked out as an area of concern.
These lanes allowed orders to be placed with companies on the recommendation of MPs or other senior figures, rather than by those with expertise in the field.
The committee said: "Leads that were considered more credible were those from government officials, ministers' offices, MPs and members of the House of Lords, but it is not clear why this assumption was made."
The government was also caught out when stockpiles of PPE were rated for usage against an influenza pandemic and not for a coronavirus, the committee said.
And other reserves were found to be out of date or not up to standard.
Frontline workers reported having PPE delivered to them with rotten elastic, some deliveries had to be returned as they were unsafe, and one box of surgical gowns was infested with insects.
The committee has echoed concerns made by the National Audit Office last year about how PPE was procured by the government at the start of the pandemic.
The committee chair Meg Hillier said: "Government had permission to procure equipment at pace and without tendering under the law, but acting fast did not give it license to rip up recordkeeping on decisions.
"Frontline workers were left without adequate supplies, risking their own and their families' lives to provide treatment and care.
"The government needs to acknowledge the errors and be better prepared."