UK COVID-19 Inquiry launches first investigation
The Inquiry Chair, Baroness Hallett officially launched the UK COVID-19 Inquiry and opened its first investigation into how well prepared the UK was for a pandemic. Baroness Hallett also set out the timetable for the next 12 months, with preliminary hearings starting later this year, and the first witnesses to be called in the spring of 2023.
Modular Approach to Investigations
With extensive Terms of Reference, it has today been confirmed by Baroness Hallett that the Inquiry will be taking a modular approach to its investigations.
The Inquiry’s first investigation, Module 1, was opened today. It will examine the resilience and preparedness of the UK for the coronavirus pandemic.
Module 2 will examine core political and administrative governance and decision-making by the UK government. The same overarching and strategic issues from the perspective of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be explored in Modules 2A, 2B and 2C, with the associated public hearings taking place in each nation.
The impact of COVID-19, and governmental and societal responses to it, on healthcare systems, including on patients, hospital and other healthcare workers and staff will be investigated in Module 3.
The Inquiry’s first procedural hearings will begin in September and October for Modules 1 and 2. Public hearings will begin in spring 2023 for Module 1 and summer for Module 2. More information on Module 3 timings will be available in the coming weeks.
Applications for Core Participant status for Module 1 will be open from 21 July to 16 August and more details are available in today’s update.
The Inquiry will announce further modules in 2023, likely to cover both ‘system’ and ‘impact’ issues including: vaccines, therapeutics and anti-viral treatment; the care sector; Government procurement and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); testing and tracing; Government business and financial responses; health inequalities and the impact of COVID-19; education, children and young persons; and the impact of COVID-19 on public services and on other sectors. The Inquiry has confirmed that it will be looking at the impact of the pandemic on inequalities at every stage of its investigations.
Reports with analysis, findings and recommendations will be delivered in a timely way and whilst the Inquiry’s investigations are ongoing so as to ensure prompt and meaningful learning without delay.
The Chair has confirmed that the Inquiry will listen to the experiences of those affected by the pandemic, and a ‘listening exercise’ will begin later this year.
The Impact on Health and Social Care Systems
The Chair today confirmed that Module 3 will examine the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare systems generally and on patients, hospital and other healthcare workers and staff. Among other issues, it will investigate healthcare systems and governance, hospitals, primary care (including GPs and dentists), the impact on NHS backlogs and non-COVID treatment, the effects on healthcare provision of vaccination programmes and Long-COVID diagnosis. No timetable has been set for Module 3 but the Chair has confirmed that more information will be available in the coming weeks.
No further detail on Modules specific to the care sector are expected until 2023.
Questions remain for health and social care sectors about how information will be collated by the Inquiry, and the role for individual providers in the Inquiry. It has been confirmed that the Inquiry will “review existing research … and commission its own research into areas where new academic analysis is needed.” The Chair has also confirmed that she “will appoint groups of scientific and other experts to help the Inquiry in its work, covering a range of different topics and views”, with the teams leading the Inquiry’s investigative work having already identified a number of topics on which we will commission research and seek expert advice.
With wide-reaching key lines of enquiry focused on health and social care systems having been identified, and with experience telling us that the task ahead in terms of potential disclosure and evidence is likely to be mammoth, we reiterate our earlier message that there is a need for proactive preparation. Access to our COVID-19 Inquiry seminar series can be found here. You can also read our COVID-19 Inquiry brochure here.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of Hempsons’ experienced COVID-19 Inquiry Leads for more information on how we can help.
You can read the full announcement of Baroness Hallett here.