Earlier this week we launched a new COVID-19 ‘lessons learned’ review to hear from members and other stakeholders about their experiences during the course of the pandemic. In the last couple of days we have already heard from more than 500 members who have shared their experiences with us.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 140,000 deaths from the virus in the nation – the highest number in Western Europe. An estimated further 12,000 excess non-COVID deaths occurred during the first wave on the back of a health service that was forced to cease routine services, repurposing limited staff and facilities to cope with the pressures of the pandemic.
The consequent gargantuan backlog of care is the highest in the history of the NHS. COVID-19 continues to affect the health service with the number of cases across the UK the highest in Western Europe, and weekly hospital admissions six times greater than Italy with deaths rates four times that of France.
While the UK government has announced a public inquiry to commence next year and the Scottish Government has committed to establish its own inquiry this year, it is clear we need to learn the urgent lessons now to deal with the many enormous challenges facing the health service – from too few doctors and too few beds to a crumbling estate and outdated IT systems.
Time is against us as these issues continue to hinder our ability to deal with the growing backlog of care with forthcoming winter pressures and a pandemic which is not yet over.
The realities of the pandemic have laid bare these existing and essential problems we must fix in to place the NHS on a stable footing.
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.
Each of your individual testimonies will provide an invaluable perspective from the very heart of the pandemic across all parts of the UK, helping us to identify the lessons we need to learn that must be acted on.
Your contributions will help us to provide important evidence to upcoming government inquires, so the experience of medical professionals is fully taken on board.
We are also reaching out to medical royal colleges, think-tanks, other representative associations and public health organisations to hear a breadth of views, helping to inform our recommendations.
Your voice counts – the huge challenges we face today must be addressed and a tragedy on this scale must never be repeated. I’d like to invite all our members to respond to our call for evidence.
Chaand Nagpaul is BMA council chair