BMA says lessons must be learnt to support the NHS now, as it launches call for evidence as part of review into the pandemic

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 9 November 2021

The BMA is calling for evidence to help inform its 'Lessons Learned' review into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and its impact on the medical profession and the NHS, ahead of a UK Government-led statutory inquiry next year.

The Association is contacting members and other key stakeholders – including Royal Colleges and leading think tanks - to understand the true impact of how the Government’s handling of the crisis has affected the lives of doctors, the health service, patient care, and the public’s health.

The focus is to learn lessons so that action can be taken both in the immediate future, as the NHS grapples with continued covid pressures and the biggest backlog of care in its history, as well as to be best prepared for future pandemics so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The focus of our review is:

  • The protection of healthcare workers from Covid-19
  • The impact of the pandemic on the medical profession
  • Delivery of healthcare during the pandemic
  • The public health response to the pandemic
  • The impact of the pandemic on population health

Only last month a cross-party select committee labelled the UK Government’s early response to the pandemic “the worst public health failure ever,” reflecting on inadequate supplies and procurement of PPE; a test and trace system that failed to deliver; and delays in implementing public infection control measures to prevent the virus spreading.

The review, which launched in July, will also directly inform the BMA’s submissions to the UK public inquiry, which starts in Spring 2022, allowing the Association to gather and prepare the best possible evidence and ensure that frontline doctors have a powerful voice and are listened to.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: "The Government’s public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 is simply too far away, and lessons need to be learnt and acted on now, given that Covid infection remains high, with the NHS facing a record backlog of care and we’re not even in the depths of winter pressures yet. This must include addressing NHS capacity, workforce shortages, and effective public health measures. Our review will also consider fit-for-purpose preparedness for any future pandemic, so we see no repetition of the scale of suffering which inflicted our nation.

"Hearing from our members who have experienced first-hand the impact of the pandemic on themselves, the health service and on patients, is absolutely central to the BMA’s review.

"Their experiences have been truly sobering – from doctors who worked on the frontlines exposed to a deadly virus with inadequate or non-existent PPE, to witnessing illness and death at levels they were never trained to handle. Their professional lives were turned upside down, with many redeployed from their normal jobs to support critical covid care as well as working excessive hours. Healthcare workers in hospital were left to provide pastoral care for patients at the end of life, without visitors, family or friends. These distressing moments made worse by witnessing their colleagues becoming ill, and the tragedy of several hundred healthcare workers losing their own lives from the virus. Doctors have been left with physical exhaustion and emotional trauma with no sense of respite.

"It’s these voices that must be at the forefront of not only helping us understand what happened during Covid-19, but so that the nation is properly prepared and does not sleep walk into a future tragedy of this scale again. They must be heard if we are to tackle the gargantuan pressures ahead and ensure the Government can properly support healthcare workers – those who went above and beyond to keep our country safe."

ENDS

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.