Responding to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s evidence to Module 2 of the Covid Inquiry, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said:
“As the virus spread unabated from March 2020, Boris Johnson and his colleagues relied on doctors and health and care workers to protect and save lives, when the Government had no plan and no grip on the virus. Our members and their colleagues were left exposed and under-protected. Despite Boris Johnson’s supposed gratitude to NHS staff and him witnessing first-hand during his own time in hospital the sacrifices they were making to save lives, he repeatedly left them take the brunt of his poor decision-making.
“His refusal to act on scientific advice, lack of urgency, contradictory public health messages, failure to learn from the first wave to reduce the impact of a second, premature proclamation of ‘freedom’, and later his own personal disregard for his own guidance and rules, all left doctors and their colleagues picking up the pieces. Staff spent months seeing death on an unimaginable scale, separated themselves from their loved ones, working long and challenging hours in uncomfortable PPE (if they had any at all), only to have their dedication undermined by Mr Johnson and his Government.
“For healthcare workers from ethnic minority backgrounds particularly, Mr Johnson himself admitted that they ‘paid a terrible price’ for their sacrifices on the front line. Yet he could not answer what exactly his Government did to protect this significant and invaluable group of staff once the increased risk they faced became glaringly apparent.
“He says that our healthcare system ‘was never overwhelmed’. Our members who worked through that period will have a very different recollection. Many patients with low oxygen levels were not admitted to hospitals so capacity could be prioritised. Many people stayed away from hospital and died at home instead. We should remember them, and the suffering that they experienced so that the NHS could give those with a chance at survival better odds.
“It is no wonder that my colleagues still bear the mental, emotional and sometimes physical scars from this time.
“For those now living with continuing long-term symptoms after contracting Covid-19, his apologies and apparent sympathy will be of little comfort; they sit at complete odds with the offensive way he repeatedly disregarded and trivialised their illness and the devastating impact it was having.
“Mr Johnson’s evidence was a masterclass in double-speak, where his platitudes contradicted the reality of events, and showed that it was one rule for the rulers and another for the country – he remains a million miles from the reality when he dismisses the lived experience of doctors, healthcare workers and those who sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic.”
Notes to editors
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