BMA call for COVID-19 public inquiry 'can send powerful message to government'

Doctors can send a powerful message to the government over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by backing calls for a public inquiry, a top BMA GP has said ahead of its 2020 annual conference.

BMA representative body chair Dr Helena McKeown (Photo: BMA)
BMA representative body chair Dr Helena McKeown (Photo: BMA)

Delegates at the BMA's 2020 annual representative meeting (ARM) - which is taking place online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic - debated calls for 'a public enquiry into the UK governments’ management of the COVID-19 pandemic'.

A motion debated at the 15 September event - which has now been carried - says a public inquiry could help the UK prepare better for a future pandemic - and demands an inquiry that covers 'mismanagement of care homes', the 'purchase, delivery, quality control and guidelines for PPE', testing, staff wellbeing and the timing of interventions such as lockdown.

Doctors will also debate calls for industrial action over real-terms cuts to pay - and demand a rise in NHS funding to help the profession tackle the backlog in care triggered by the pandemic.

Public inquiry

Speaking ahead of the debate, BMA representative body chair Dr Helena McKeown told GPonline: 'I think we need a public inquiry. We've had lots of calls from colleagues about issues such as not enough PPE and testing - and we may get a different pandemic over the next decade. We need to learn from this.'

The Wiltshire GP said practices across the country had been forced to try to intervene to stop patients being sent to care homes with COVID-19, and said PPE supply had been 'a disaster'.

Dr McKeown pointed out that the UK must learn lessons about the need to be self-sufficient in PPE in future given the threat to international supply lines during a pandemic. And she said COVID-19 testing was an 'ongoing nightmare'.

'I have colleagues at home today because their children have potential COVID-19 symptoms and can't get tested,' she said.

NHS pressure

Growing numbers of patients with 'long covid' symptoms and the 'huge burden' this could place on general practice should also be considered, she argued - along with the impact on GPs of having to make decisions about patients withough access to routine investigations.

Dr McKeown said the conference was an opportunity for the profession to be heard and to recognise the 'phenomenal' response from doctors at a time of huge strain on the NHS.

'For most doctors, the pandemic is the biggest thing we have lived through professionally and as a society. We need to hear from colleagues about how they coped.'

The conference also recognised doctors who have lost their lives in the pandemic with a one-minute silence. At least 13 GPs have lost their lives to date to COVID-19.

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