DR CHAAND NAGPAUL, the British Medical Association’s chair of council, has responded to Coronavirus: lessons learned to date, the report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee.

Dr Nagpaul said: “The UK has suffered one of the worst tolls from Covid in the Western world, in terms of numbers of cases, hospitalisations and deaths. The report gives well-deserved praise to the development and deployment of one of the most successful vaccine programmes in history, which was delivered largely by the hard work and dedication of doctors and healthcare staff.

“The report also reveals the significance of the failures from the very start of the pandemic. It highlights several consequential mistakes, which have been flagged by the BMA, including delays in implementing robust public health measures such as the initial lockdown, when it was clear the virus was spiralling out of control.

“Lives were lost due to the Government’s delay to bringing in the initial lockdown, ignoring scientific advice at crucial junctures, and the institutional failures of Test and Trace. The way in which the Government abandoned social care, the inadequate provision and supply of PPE, and the lack of proper health risk assessment, especially for black, Asian and ethnic minority staff, forced health and care staff to put their lives at risk to protect their patients.

“The Government must take on board this report’s 38 recommendations and learn from the mistakes it has made, starting now. We are far from out of the woods with the pandemic, with rates of infection, illness and death in the UK continuing to be among the worst in comparator nations.

“The BMA is launching its own lessons learned work which focuses on the impact Covid-19 has had on the health service and its staff, and what needs to change from now onwards and in the future.

“We are gathering evidence from members and stakeholders across the UK to ensure that frontline doctors have a powerful voice in the public inquiry to come. We believe it must also include what actually matters to the public – a thorough and far-reaching review of every element of the pandemic. We need clarity, honesty and humility so we can avoid these mistakes in the future.”

Also responding to the report Carol Popplestone, Council Chair at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The long-term failure to invest in the nursing workforce meant health and care services were chronically under- resourced to deal with the pressures of the pandemic.

“The report highlights how staff stepped up to be redeployed to areas of critical care to protect those most in need and yet they were continually let down by failures at the highest levels. The massive nursing shortage meant student nurses being called to the frontline, disrupting their studies and readiness to qualify. Nursing staff across the whole health and care system were given false reassurances on PPE and those in their care were put at risk by failures in test and trace.

“Warnings were repeatedly ignored and the terrible impact on the most vulnerable is laid bare in this report. There can now be no delay to the start of a public inquiry into the failings. The first lesson must be ensuring proper accountability in government for workforce planning and supply is built into law”

* Read the report here.

* Sources: British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing