Analysis comment Guest article

Leading medic: when the CV crisis is over, we need an inquiry into Johnson’s failure to prepare or act early

Former BMA deputy chair Dr Kailash Chand writes:

Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care. We all wish him a speedy recovery.

But his hospitalisation cannot be allowed to distract from the fact that the nation is in a total mess and asking many questions about how it was allowed to get there and how it will get out of it.

World-leading disease-data analysts have projected that the UK will become the country worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, accounting for more than 40% of total deaths across the continent – even without the latest ONS revelations that the government has under-reported the figures by more than half.

I sincerely hope and pray the analysts’ predictions are wrong. But this government needs to account for Johnson’s initial ‘take it on the chin’ approach and his government’s promotion of the idea of ‘herd immunity’ as a way out of the epidemic.

That approach meant there was a delay in implementing physical distancing until 23 March, when there were already 54 daily coronavirus deaths. On the day the UK’s deaths for the last 24 hours reached a record 938, to say Johnson’s approach was ignorance and stupidity would be an excessively charitable interpretation.

Johnson addressed the nation at a press conference on 3 March 2020. He claimed that the UK was ‘extremely well prepared’:

And let’s not forget, we already have a fantastic NHS… we will make sure the NHS gets all the support it needs.

When doctors were asked about this in a Guardian survey by Guardian only 1% agreed that the NHS was in a position to cope with the COVID pandemic.

The shortage of doctors, nurses, beds and care packages for elderly patients meant that black alerts, trolleys in corridors and dangerous safety levels were at a peak even before the pandemic hit our shores. On top of that, social care services were and remain in a state of paralysis.

Johnson and his administration showed a total lack of understanding – or disregard for the consequences – of the disease and a shortage of protective equipment in the early weeks of the outbreak in January led to thousands of healthcare workers being infected while treating patients.

The availability of safe equipment is a little better, but still in very short supply – the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has added its voice to the organisations calling attention to the danger to their members – and the UK ignored the simple message from the World Health Organisation (WHO)  to ’test, test, test’.

This means that to date we don’t know how many people have been infected but have only developed a mild illness. The symptoms might not warrant a doctor’s visit, but the infection can still be passed on and every country needs to know how many are infected and isolate those affected.

Without comprehensive testing, we are fighting in the dark with no idea how many people in the community are linked in chains of transmission.

Remember, in early March while advising the general public on the virtues of social distancing, Johnson said that he was still shaking hands with everyone, including at a hospital treating coronavirus patients.

I couldn’t agree more with Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet medical journal, that the response by this government to Covid is a ‘national scandal”.

In an editorial, Horton said he would testify to Parliament about a mismatch between “the urgent warning that was coming from the front line in China” and the “somewhat pedestrian evaluation” of the scientific advice to the government on the threat of the virus.

But once this crisis is over, the public will want to know how the NHS came to be left in this exposed position; how social care was stripped away to such a critical extent and how those in power exposed the nation to such a dreaded virus through a ‘pedestrian’ approach and a Darwinist ideology.

Nothing short of an independent public inquiry will do!  

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7 comments

  1. As always the devil will be in the detail, the outcome of the enquiry decided by the enquiry’s government dictated remit.

  2. Fully agree. However, if there is no appetite for suggesting that the government has got it wrong in any way right now, as a massive daily death toll is in full swing, why would we expect there to be anger and demands for explanation at some future point? It’s incomprehensible to me that the media and opposition parties appear to have united in common cause with a government that is effectively murdering thousands of people via its misled experimental approach, and hopeless lack of preparedness. I do hope there is a public inquiry and that they are held to account, but I have to say, my belief increasingly is that these Tory boys can and will get away with anything, always with the assistance of their tame media, but now a tame Labour Party too. And the British people, unlike the French, are sadly very likely to follow the fuhrer’s advice, and “take it on the chin.”

  3. No! We need a swift commencement of criminal proceedings. And an injunction NOW, that the destruction +/or concealment of all and ANY communication by any medium amongst and between ALL government and civil service and NHS is forbidden under ALL circumstances.

    Failing to comply for any reason should be a capital offence. The penalty should be life imprisonment and a fine equivalent to the value of all assets directly or indirectly held held, including directly or indirectly by heirs and their decedents in perpetuity no matter where the assets are held and when they materialise.

    There must also be an injunction now that all meetings be minuted in timed detail. The minutes must be retained in triplicate and stored in different locations.

    NO MORE LENGTHY COSTLY ENQUIRES like Hillsborough and Grenfel. And no more PLP failing to prosecute the Tories!!! 🌹🌹🌹

  4. If there is an inquiry it won’t bad public one.
    And like Grenfell, the truth will be buried and swept under tha carpet

  5. What we need post-CV is no different to what we’ve always needed – an end to big capitalism, private banks and casino markets.
    I have no problem with the SME’s most of us work for – perfectly happy for anyone to do well by employing people, making stuff and selling it – I’d only ban the shell game gamblers, con artists and big corporations that manipulate markets – and small/medium businesses are as victimised by big corporations as the rest of us.
    The likes of Tesco grind down their suppliers and put their competitors out of business, which only benefits half of the rich investors anyway – for every investor that wins there’s another that loses.

    The first step should be re-regulating banks and markets – most importantly with strictly enforced fixed term investments – possibly easier to sell graduated taxation instead of direct legislation.
    Slowing the market down removes the instability of panic buying and selling and puts the gamblers who cause the crashes out of business.
    Breaking the positive feedback loops and wild fluctuations of instant information and instant trading that made gambling so attractive to Thatcher’s children might finally, genuinely cure boom and bust.
    When fixed terms are imposed on investments, ie hold shares for years and pay low tax – sell in weeks and pay really high tax – the casino is over.
    Investment they can rely on then goes to real companies for expansion and innovation that benefits us all – what investment was always meant to do.
    The wealth gap immediately starts to close too – but more steadily and predictably than the alternative of a smash, grab and pitchfork.
    I think if we put our case to the masters of the universe in those terms we can convince them of the wisdom of our plan.

    1. David – A substantial proportion of Germany’s economic success is built on their banking sector’s long term support of their SME sector and also their tradition of family owned companies. They also unlike the the UK have different classes of share ownership which goes a long way towards avoiding predatory hostile takeovers.

      It is also worth noting that it was the UK that has consistently opposed and delayed the EU’s introduction of a transaction tax for stock market trading.

  6. Yeah, I’ve been saying since Lawson how idiotic it was to hang an entire economy on the City, house prices, shopping and Hayek.
    Certainly a simple transaction tax will take some of the short-termism out of the market, but not as much as graduated taxes designed specifically to encourage long termism and stability.
    Rates can be adjusted until riskier bets, short termism and antisocial strategies become unattractive to the gamblers and the markets work better for all of us.

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