BMA Engagement with the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry

The BMA and BMA Scotland continue to ensure that doctors’ experiences during the pandemic are heard and learned from. We are contributing to the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry to ensure that crucial lessons are learned and implemented.

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The Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry was launched in May 2022, with hearings beginning in October 2023. It is an independent public inquiry set up to examine Scotland’s strategic response to, and impact of, the Covid-19 pandemic and to learn lessons for the future. It is separate from the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, but the two inquiries aim to share relevant information to avoid duplication.

The Inquiry’s investigations are divided into themes which examine different aspects of the pandemic in turn. The BMA and BMA Scotland are contributing to the theme of Health and Social Care. The Inquiry will first look at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across each theme, before moving to examining the implementation of measures, and finally, key-decision making.


Health and social care impact hearings

The Inquiry’s health and social care impact hearings commenced in October 2023 and are expected to run until May 2024.

The BMA and BMA Scotland have provided a written witness statement for this theme and gave oral evidence on 21 March 2024. Read BMA Scotland’s blog post about our evidence

The BMA believes that, while a pandemic or health crisis is likely to put enormous strain on the health system and the people who work within it, the extent of the impact was not inevitable and was made worse by factors including:

  • Scotland’s healthcare system entered the pandemic understaffed, under-resourced, and barely able to cope with pre-Covid levels of demand.
  • Adequate protections were not put in place to protect staff from harm. This includes PPE shortages, inadequacy of the recommended PPE, insufficient risk assessments, an initial lack of regular testing for staff and patients, and buildings that were unsuitable for full infection prevention and control measures.
  • Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidance in Scotland failed, and continues to fail, to properly recognise that Covid-19 spreads via the air, and instead places responsibility on individual healthcare workers to raise concerns about PPE and ensure they have the necessary fit testing.
  • Impacts were not felt equally, for staff or for patients. The pandemic had a large disproportionate impact on certain groups, for example people with disabilities and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The impacts of the pandemic on staff physical and mental health continue to this day, with ongoing experiences of Long Covid, burnout, trauma, stress, and poor psychological safety.

We believe it is essential for the Inquiry to make recommendations that will reduce the impact of a future pandemic on healthcare staff, including ensuring that staff are protected against risks and that unequal impacts on staff are prevented and mitigated.

The severe consequences of entering the pandemic with an under-resourced and understaffed healthcare system means it is also vital for the Inquiry to make recommendations that will lead to a better resourced NHS with sufficient capacity for both ‘normal’ times and emergencies, and which supports staff physical and mental health.


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BMA COVID-19 actions and policy

Our policy, demands and recommendations to NHS organisations, institutions and the Government to help protect doctors, the NHS and the public during the pandemic.

View our COVID-19 actions and policy