The RCP has responded to the news that the Rt Hon Baroness Heather Hallett DBE will chair the forthcoming public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commenting on this announcement, Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:
“We welcome the appointment of the Rt Hon Baroness Hallett as chair of the forthcoming inquiry into COVID-19. A public inquiry with full powers is crucial to helping us identify and recommend changes so we can improve preparedness for and management of future crises.
“This announcement comes just after we have had to pause non-urgent care again to facilitate the booster roll-out and respond to rising hospitalisations of COVID-19. It is a reminder that the number of health and care staff we have is a crucial factor in the NHS’ ability to deal with crises.
“The inquiry therefore needs to explore ‘preparedness’ very widely, looking not only at how prepared we were and the decisions we took in terms of very practical things, such as stocks of PPE. It must take into account the capacity of the NHS, including the size of the workforce and the number of critical care beds we have, and how that guided our response. And it must consider the general health of the population and how that translated into hospitalisations and deaths.
“For example, high levels of obesity and smoking in the UK increased the negative impact of the virus, so lowering those levels should be seen as part of preparing for future pandemics and similar crises. This will need to extend to a wider examination of inequality in terms of all the protected characteristics plus socioeconomic status. These inequalities lead to inequalities in health, which have meant the most vulnerable and deprived in our society have once again borne the brunt of a crisis.”