Commenting on the announcement of a public inquiry into COVID-19, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“Health leaders agree there should be a public inquiry into the UK Governments’ handling of the COVID-19 crisis, with a clear timetable and process that this will follow, so that they understand how they can contribute to it.
“The pandemic has been the greatest challenge of our generation and we know already that lessons must be learned.
“Chronic understaffing, a lack of capital investment, poor pandemic preparedness, and failure to reform social care all meant the NHS faced challenges in relation to coronavirus through no fault of its own. But at all times, NHS teams and leaders have done everything within their power to be there for patients. Recently, the mass vaccination programme is a shining example of what the NHS and its people can achieve when given the autonomy and resource to deliver.
“While crucial for accountability and understanding, we cannot let the inquiry distract the UK Governments from supporting the NHS to address the difficulties it faces in the here and now, including an understaffed workforce, increased demand for mental health and long COVID services, and a waiting list for treatments, the size of which we have not seen in more than a decade.
"While the statement today said that the inquiry will commence in Spring 2022, there are plenty of lessons for the UK Governments to address actively in the interim. An all-nation approach is also welcome and the UK Government and devolved nations must work together to ensure lessons across the UK can be learned.
“We have reached a critical juncture in the COVID-19 crisis, with infections falling, over a third of the adult population having been vaccinated, and death rates coming down, but the threat is not gone and we still face the risk of a resurgence, especially with new variants circulating.
“Lessons from the inquiry must translate into action in all four nations to build the NHS back better.”