A major shake-up of the way the British government responds to crises is needed with the current approach haphazard, according to a document published by the nation's COVID-19 inquiry.
The Cabinet Office is failing to consistently improve its handling of crises, a review dated February 2022 and carried out by Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft, found.
The nature of crises is changing in modern society and becoming complicated by cyber and disinformation campaigns, requiring higher-quality, faster-paced central decision-making, the document said.
The Crisis Capability Review recommends establishing a Cabinet Office crisis team responsible for capturing lessons and scaling up the central government response.
"To consistently succeed in this challenging future environment, the way we co-ordinate and lead the response to major crises from the centre of government now requires a significant overhaul," the review said.
The report found there was frequently "ambiguity" and "friction" in the process of appointing a director general-level official to take the lead.
"It invariably takes too long for an individual, either from the Cabinet Office or a (lead government department), to become established as the lead and the extent of their authorities and responsibilities often remains unclear," it said.
A government spokesperson said throughout the pandemic it had acted to save lives and livelihoods, prevent the National Health Service from being overwhelmed and deliver a world-leading vaccine rollout.
"We have always said there are lessons to be learnt from the pandemic and we are committed to learning from the COVID inquiry's findings which will play a key role in informing the government's planning and preparations for the future," the spokesperson said.
The review was among documents published by the UK's official inquiry into the pandemic on Monday ahead of a major week of hearings.
On Wednesday, the inquiry is expected hear from former prime minister Boris Johnson, who is due to face two days of questioning over his handling of COVID-19.
Australian Associated Press