‘A protective ring around care homes less real than the emperor’s new clothes’, ‘inadequate, patchy PPE with no minimum specifications’, ‘a world-beating app that couldn’t work on one island which makes up part of one English county’ and ‘public health interventions and restrictions changing as often as the direction of the wind’.
BMA West Midlands regional council chair Stephen Millar’s list of serious failings during the pandemic response is as strong an argument as there could possibly be for a public inquiry into the UK Government’s management of the COVID-19 crisis.
And that is exactly what doctors present at the BMA ARM (annual representative meeting) overwhelmingly called for on Tuesday, demanding a full and frank review in order for the country to be ‘better prepared’ and to be able to ‘follow best practice during any future overwhelming health crisis’.
The motion passed at the ARM said the remit must include the mismanagement of care homes, the provision and logistical management of PPE, testing strategy, health and care staff wellbeing and the timing of interventions and easing of restrictions.
We owe it to future generations to ensure lessons are learned.Stephen Millar, BMA West Midlands regional council chair
Proposing the motion, Dr Millar said: ‘I do not call for an inquiry to attribute blame – who among us would have got these decisions all right? But I call for an inquiry so the nation can learn from this experience to better manage the next overwhelming crisis.
‘We owe it to future generations to ensure lessons are learned. Not to do so would be an irresponsible betrayal.’
It is a demand that could hardly be deemed disproportionate or frivolous. The UK has suffered more than almost any other country during the pandemic. The UK has had more deaths than any other country in Europe and the fourth most in the world behind the USA, Brazil and Mexico. It has seen the greatest number of excess deaths in Europe and the highest case mortality rate from May 15 to August 10. And on top of that, UK GDP fell by 20.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 – more than double the fall in the USA and significantly higher than France, Italy, Canada, Germany and Japan.
Speaking at the annual meeting, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘We will have future pandemics – we have to have a proper, full review of all elements of what it means to prepare for a pandemic and implement the right actions to prepare the nation. The BMA has called for a rapid review currently so we can plan again properly – learning from all the things that didn’t go right first time round in preparation for what looks like a second spike or at least major outbreaks.’