The Learn Lessons, Save Lives report calls for a comprehensive, independent public inquiry into how the Government has handled the pandemic

covid ppe

Doctors and other healthcare workers were left ‘horribly exposed’ to COVID-19 in the UK, ‘with a desperate lack of support provided for NHS staff and hospitals, as well as primary care staff and services’, which must now be subject to a public inquiry, the British Medical Association (BMA) has stated in reaction to a new report.

The Learn Lessons, Save Lives report by COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, which the BMA contributed to, calls for a comprehensive, independent public inquiry into how the Government has handled the pandemic, and outlines the key areas that any inquiry must look at, in order to ‘learn the lessons that will prevent further loss of life in the future’.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Council Chair, said: ‘As we’ve set out in this report, doctors and other healthcare workers were left horribly exposed to COVID-19. Government was simply not prepared for the pandemic; it failed to provide sufficient or adequate PPE [personal protective equipment] risking the health and lives of doctors in the course of their duties from a novel, highly contagious virus.’

Call for a public inquiry into the UK’s response to the pandemic 

‘There were at least 414 deaths involving COVID-19 among healthcare workers between March and December 2020. During this time, doctors suffered the emotional turmoil of seeing so many of their friends and colleagues become seriously unwell, on ventilators, with many losing their own lives. There were inadequate risk assessments and protections in place when infection was at its peak, and it was troubling to see gross inequalities exacerbated within the health service, with 95% of doctors who lost their lives coming from a Black, Asian, and minority ethnic … background.’

Dr Nagpaul added that this is why the issue of support and protection for NHS staff across hospitals and primary care must form part of any public inquiry into the UK’s response to the pandemic. He confirmed that the BMA is carrying out its own work to learn lessons from the medical profession, ‘as we believe it is important for lessons to be learnt now from the pandemic, while memories are fresh’

‘The scale of the loss of life across the UK—amongst the highest in the Western world—and the consequent grief to so many families and loved ones should never be allowed to happen again. The Government must take the Learn Lessons, Save Lives report seriously. It is an opportunity to learn from mistakes of the past, and as the NHS faces its toughest winter yet, along with a potentially dangerous new variant, the stakes couldn’t be higher.’

Data covering the year following March 2020 show that at least 77,000 hospital staff in England were infected with COVID-19 during the pandemic, and there were nearly a quarter of a million absences for COVID-related reasons. NHS staff have been left feeling burnt out and fatigued, with many doctors experiencing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, the BMA said.

This article originally appeared on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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