The People’s Covid Inquiry
Updated: Apr 13
Why we launched a People's Covid Inquiry and how you can take part
Launch video for the People's Covid Inquiry
The People’s Covid Inquiry has been launched in England by Keep Our NHS Public, an organisation with groups in cities all around the country, campaigning for the National Health Service to be re-established on the basis of its founding principles, providing comprehensive services free at the time of use, publically provided and financed, and accountable to the public. A key aim is to remove private companies and the market in health care as well as restoring the extensive cuts in funding over the last decade and boosting current funding to meet demand.
In mid-March 2021, the total of excess deaths from COVID-19 in the UK since the start of the pandemic exceeded 126,000, giving us the highest number of deaths in relation to population. We believe the shocking scale of this tragic loss of life was avoidable and that we all deserve to know how and why this happened. The government has thus far failed to learn from its mistakes and has not agreed to a public inquiry other than at some unspecified point in the future – despite considerable pressure in some sections of the press, bereaved families, the medical profession and from many others. While we continue to support the calls for an official public inquiry, the scale of the ongoing crisis led us to believe that we had to launch our own ‘People’s Covid Inquiry’. This held its first of nine two-weekly on-line sessions on 24th February.
The People’s Covid Inquiry aims to examine the events of the pandemic and look at them in the context of the state of the NHS and social care at the outset, from January 2020. Both the successes and the failures are being explored. The purpose is that the right lessons can be learned given the likely protracted nature of the current pandemic, together with the certainty of future pandemics. It is also important that the government is held to account for its actions by the public before recent history is rewritten or swept aside. We already have our Health Secretary (Matt Hancock) wrongly claiming there was never any shortage of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers, and that the amazing vaccination rollout by NHS staff somehow represents a triumph not for public services but for the private sector. Meanwhile, official bodies such as the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee continue to tear into government for mismanagement and misuse of public funds.
How will the Inquiry work?
The Inquiry will look at the extent to which the NHS, including public health, would have been enabled to respond differently if it had been properly funded and wholly in public hands. It will examine issues of health inequalities, community and GP services, mental health, disability, social care, health and safety at work, the extent to which at-risk sectors of society have been protected or let down, and much more.The evidence gathered will provide the basis for conclusions and recommendations on the provision of health and social care in the UK, including the future funding and organisation of the NHS and the urgent need for a national service for care, support and independent living.
Our People’s Covid Inquiry is comprised of various forms of evidence-gathering, as well as collation of already existing work done by other bodies. We are working with Bereaved Families for Justice and have launched new surveys of NHS staff and frontline workers, commissioning video testimonials from ordinary people as well as experts. We feel it is essential that those affected by the pandemic have their voices heard and a record added to our Inquiry archive from up and down the country. The sessions are broadcast live via social media and then made available recordings.
The renowned human rights lawyer, Michael Mansfield QC, is chairing the Inquiry. Each session covers a different aspect of the pandemic (see below) and is held on-line for two hours. Two expert and two citizen witnesses provide written testimony in advance, and are then questioned on this by a barrister for the Inquiry. The evidence is heard each session by a panel consisting of senior academics and clinicians. Filmed testimony from people presenting their experience of the pandemic is also made available to the panel, which will complete a report on its finding and the lessons to be learned at the conclusion of the Inquiry. The Inquiry has already attracted very high profile figures to give testimony including internationally known experts. In addition, it has given a voice to those who have been bereaved, frontline workers and others impacted by this disaster.
(Note: some sessions have already taken place. In this case, we have posted a video of the session here. You can register for the other sessions by following the link below. You can find more general information about the People's Covid Inquiry here).
1. How well prepared was the NHS?
2. How did the government respond?
3. Did the government adopt the right public health strategy?
4. Impact on the population (including families, social care, disability)
5. Impact on frontline staff and key workers
9. Conclusions. What will the future be?
The huge death toll in the UK has been described as ‘social murder’ and demands a timely investigation into government management of the pandemic. With 126,000 deaths, those left bereaved require answers; lessons learned and applied could reduce the ongoing death toll (for example re-organising ‘test and trace’ so that it is made effective). The government needs to be held to account for its actions but currently refuses to respond to the growing pressure from a wide cross-section of opinion for a comprehensive official inquiry. Faced with what are perceived as serious crimes perpetrated by governments, civil society has devised the concept of a "Citizen's Tribunal" – part legal proceedings, part theatre and part publicly speaking "truth to power". This is the basis for our ‘People’s Covid Inquiry’.
Dr John Puntis, Co-chair Keep Our NHS Public