In the absence of an imminent start to the public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BMA is beginning its own ‘Lessons learned’ work and will publish evidence relating to key areas of the pandemic response.
The BMA believes the public inquiry should start immediately, while memories are fresh in the minds of those who have worked on the frontline and that the current start date of Spring 2022 is simply not good enough.
The professional body and trade union for doctors will gather evidence from members across the UK and seek accounts from stakeholders to inform its future publication, which will directly inform its submission to the public inquiry.
The BMA has identified 5 areas into which the ‘Lessons learned’ work will focus on:
- The protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19
- The impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers
- Delivery of healthcare during the pandemic
- The public health response to the pandemic
- The impact of the pandemic on population health
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“The public inquiry into the country’s handling of the pandemic will probably take years to gather evidence and publish its findings – so we should not be waiting to uncover the reasons why the UK has suffered the highest death toll in Europe or the seventh highest in the world as well as the devastating impact on our health service and its staff.
“This work is especially critical right now as we sit amidst a rapidly growing third wave of infections that threaten our health service and the long-term health of our nation.
“In the absence of any meaningful action from Government, we will speak with our members and other stakeholders; pose the key questions they need to answer and produce clear recommendations for the Government. Drawing upon lessons learned we will call on Ministers to put into place measures, so the NHS is adequately prepared of any future pandemic or unexpected surges in demand, together with proper support and protection of its healthcare staff. We will also outline areas where the Inquiry needs to interrogate witnesses – who will be compelled to give evidence under oath.”
Dr Kailash Chand, BMA honorary vice-president, said:
“This work by the BMA is important. We owe it to those who have died and their loved ones and all healthcare staff to have answers now. The last 18 months have challenged each one of us like never before, and we should never have to endure tragedy at such a scale again. We cannot afford to waste a minute in learning lessons and preparing for future pandemics.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Academy of Royal Colleges, said:
“We fully understand and support the need to examine everything that has happened during the pandemic and if the Government plans to delay the inquiry, there is a strong argument for gathering evidence while events are still fresh in people’s minds. The medical profession has been on the front line of the battle against Covid-19 for too long and the lessons learned should be shared as soon as practicable. This has particular urgency now as we are in the midst of a rapidly escalating third wave, with the likelihood of more destructive variants of infection and further waves to follow, which will in turn heap further pressures on our health and care systems.”