BMA Engagement with the UK Covid-19 Inquiry

The BMA continues to ensure that doctors’ experiences during the pandemic are heard and learnt from. We are actively contributing to the UK Covid Inquiry to ensure that crucial lessons are learned and implemented.

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The UK Covid-19 Inquiry is an independent public inquiry set up to examine the UK’s response to and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to learn lessons for the future. The Inquiry’s investigations are divided into modules which examine different aspects of the pandemic in turn.


In addition, the BMA and BMA Scotland are contributing to the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry which is separate to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. The Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry is investigating aspects of Scotland’s strategic response to the pandemic, including its impact on the provision of health and social care. Hearings began in October 2023. Read more on our engagement with the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry.


Latest UK Covid-19 Inquiry activity

Module 3: Impact of the pandemic on healthcare

The third module examines the impact of the pandemic on healthcare delivery, healthcare staff and patients.

The BMA is a core participant for Module 3. Evidence hearings will begin in September 2024.

The BMA believes that:

  • 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 failed, and continues to fail, to properly recognise that Covid-19 spreads via the air, and instead leaves staff exposed and unprotected.
  • Healthcare staff worked tirelessly to safeguard the nation’s health and care for those in need, often at great personal cost to their physical and mental health. The impact on staff continues to this day, with ongoing experiences of Long Covid, burnout, trauma, stress, and poor psychological safety.
  • Impacts were not felt equally, for staff or for patients. The pandemic had a large disproportionate impact on certain groups, including ethnic minorities and those with disabilities or long-term health conditions.
  • The overall state of health and care systems across the UK in the years leading up to the pandemic played a major role in the inability of these systems to cope when Covid-19 arrived. It exacerbated the severe disruption to healthcare delivery, with major consequences for staff and patients, and continues to impact health services today.
  • These pre-pandemic failures resulted in unprecedented measures to bring in staff, including calls for retired staff to return to service, medical students joining the workforce early and the use of volunteers. Staff had to be redeployed, often starting new roles without training or adequate supervision.

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 are prevented and mitigated.

The severe consequences of entering the pandemic with under-resourced and understaffed healthcare systems mean 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.

Other modules

Module 1: Resilience and preparedness

The first module of the Covid-19 inquiry examines pre-pandemic resilience and preparedness between 2009 and 2020. The BMA is a core participant for Module 1 and provided oral and written evidence. The evidence hearings for this module have now finished, with the Chair’s report expected to be published in 2024. 

The BMA believes the UK entered the pandemic significantly underprepared and lacking resilience, largely due to:

  • A lack of preparation for a range of pandemic threats beyond influenza
  • The failure to implement the recommendations from pandemic planning exercises
  • A decade of underfunding for public health systems which meant they lacked vital capacity and were not able to scale up activity
  • Chronic underinvestment in healthcare systems, with reduced bed stock, acute staffing shortages and already high waiting lists
  • Poor population health and widening health inequalities

Module 2: Core UK decision-making and political governance

The second module examines core administrative and political decision making of the UK Government during the pandemic. There are also sub-modules 2a, 2b, and 2c examining the same issues in relation to the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The BMA is a core participant for Module 2 and provided oral and written evidence. The evidence hearings for this module have now finished, with the Chair’s report expected to be published in 2024.

The BMA believes that:

  • The UK Government’s response to the pandemic was categorised by a failure to take a sufficiently precautionary approach, despite repeated warnings from the BMA and others, and missed opportunities to learn lessons as the pandemic progressed.
  • Government actions – and inaction – very likely led to greater transmission of the virus, increased risk of harm for those who caught Covid including due to long Covid, and adversely impacted patients who required non-Covid care and treatment.
  • Doctors and healthcare workers were not sufficiently considered in UK Government decisions. These decisions had huge impacts for healthcare workers by putting extra pressure on already stretched and stressed healthcare and public health systems, increasing workload, and causing moral distress and injury for doctors and healthcare workers who felt unable to provide the right level of care for all who needed it, including for non-Covid patients.

Module 4: Vaccines and therapeutics

The fourth module examines the development of Covid-19 vaccines and the implementation of the vaccination rollout programme.

The BMA is a core participant for Module 4. Evidence hearings will begin in January 2025.


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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