COVID lessons learned report published

October 12, 2021

The House of Commons and Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee have published their report, ‘Coronavirus: Lessons learned to date, examining the initial UK response to the COVID pandemic’.

The 150-page report contains 38 recommendations to the Government and public bodies and draws on evidence from over 50 witnesses – including Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Professor Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick Vallance, Sir Simon Stevens, Dame Kate Bingham, Baroness Harding of Winscombe and Dominic Cummings – as well as over 400 written submissions.

The COVID lessons learned report was agreed unanimously by members of both Select Committees, which consist of 22 MPs from three political parties – Conservative, Labour and SNP.

The joint inquiry, which began in October 2020, examined six key areas of the response to COVID-19: the country's preparedness for a pandemic; the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as border controls, social distancing and lockdowns to control the pandemic; the use of test, trace and isolate strategies; the impact of the pandemic on social care; the impact of the pandemic on specific communities; and the procurement and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.

The inquiry concluded that some initiatives were examples of global best practice but others represented mistakes. Both must be reflected on to ensure that lessons are applied to better inform future responses to emergencies.

In particular:

  • The forward-planning, agility and decisive organisation of the vaccine development and deployment effort will save millions of lives globally and should be a guide to future Government practice.
  • The delays in establishing an adequate test, trace and isolate system hampered efforts to understand and contain the outbreak and it failed in its stated purpose to avoid lockdowns. The initial decision to delay a comprehensive lockdown – despite practice elsewhere in the world – reflected a fatalism about the spread of COVID that should have been robustly challenged at the time.
  • Social care was not given sufficient priority in the early stages of the pandemic.
  • The experience of the COVID pandemic underlines the need for an urgent and long-term strategy to tackle health inequalities.
  • The UK’s preparedness for a pandemic had been widely acclaimed in advance but performed less well than many other countries in practice.

Independent SAGE is calling on the scientific community to hold its own inquiry into the generation and use of scientific advice following the report into handling of the pandemic. SAGE has said the Government has “failed to learn from other countries” and current policies on schools and vaccines for children are 'confused, lack transparency and are not following best international practice.'

In a statement responding to the House of Commons report ‘Coronavirus: Lessons Learned to Date’, the panel of expert scientists urges the Government to implement the recommendations of the committees in full, including rapid publication of the advice that it receives and minutes from SAGE meetings.

Professor Martin McKee from Independent SAGE, said, 'The report confirms many of the concerns that we have been expressing during the pandemic. These concerns were exactly the rationale for forming Independent SAGE in April 2020, at a time when the membership of SAGE and its advice were still secret. However, we now need to learn the lessons and look forward. We are calling for full implementation of the Report’s findings, a review of the use of evidence by the UK’s scientific community and increased transparency of advice to government and, in particular, from the JCVI.'

Helen Wildbore, Director of the Relatives and Residents Association, said, ‘The damning report confirms what care users and their families have known all along – the care sector was an afterthought. Older people needing care were failed by the very systems designed to protect them. They were abandoned in the early stages of the pandemic and continue to be left behind today, as the only group still subject to stringent restrictions on their contact with family and friends. We must urgently learn lessons to ensure older people’s rights are protected now. Waiting until the spring for a public inquiry to start will be too late for too many.’

Visit the Parliament UK website to download the report on lessons learned from COVID.

In other news, leaders of the Five Nations Care Forum met in London on 4th and 5th October 2021, for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

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