Responding to the publication of the Government’s draft terms of reference for the forthcoming public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“This inquiry will pose fundamental questions about the role of the state in responding to this crisis and there will be significant lessons to learn.
“We owe it to those people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and to their bereaved families to address the fundamental failings which mean the health service was not resilient enough at the outset.
“This crisis has been one of the greatest challenges of our generation and we know that lessons must be learned. We need to ask searching questions as to why the NHS was allowed to enter the pandemic carrying 100,000 staff vacancies, rundown buildings, a lack of personal protective equipment and limited diagnostic testing capacity compared with other countries.
“The draft terms of reference rightly look at the bigger picture, aim to make practical recommendations and build on lessons learned. Given the potential longevity of this inquiry we hope that there will be an initial fact-finding phase, from which quick lessons can be gleaned. NHS leaders are eager to learn from the experiences of the pandemic so they can make changes now and we also need a public health and social care system equipped to deal with potential new variants and future pandemics.
“We hope that in the process, the inquiry team will take a proportionate approach to requesting information and is clear about why information is needed, recognising the ongoing pressures system leaders are under.
“We look forward to working with the inquiry team on behalf of our members and urge for continued engagement and communication with partners in the devolved governments throughout.”