Government delay spells unnecessary deaths

As Scotland plans to open a judge-led inquiry by the end of the year, Jo Goodman challenges the Westminster Government’s deadly delay in holding a full public inquiry into the Covid-19 crisis

Since my last article for Chartist much has happened in some respects, while in others frustratingly little has. In May we were delighted that the Prime Minister confirmed that a statutory public inquiry would be held into the handling of the pandemic. This was a huge victory for our collective of bereaved families and confirms that the inquiry will have the powers needed to get to the truth.

However, at the same time we were presented with a hugely unsatisfactory timeline with the Prime Minister declaring that the inquiry would begin in spring 2022, arguing that to start one before then would distract from the efforts to handle the pandemic. 

We’ve since heard from the Cabinet Office that the Government is yet to even begin work on deciding the terms of reference for the inquiry, the first step for making any progress on it. This indicates that they are going to delay proceedings for as long as possible. 

This is troubling for families on a number of levels. Firstly, it is galling for the Prime Minister to suggest that the Government is too busy handling the pandemic at the same time as it lifts almost all public health measures and talks of the need to “live with the virus”. This is particularly difficult to hear given that we know, even now with the progress of the vaccination programme, “living with the virus” for some will mean dying with it, as hundreds continue to do daily. How many of those deaths could have been prevented, and how many more will pass away needlessly, leaving families marked by trauma?

Since the outset of our campaign our priority has been to ensure that lessons can be learned in order to save lives. Of course, I would want nothing more on this earth than to bring my Dad back, in all his grumpy glory, but I know I can’t do that. What I can do is try to prevent another family going through the same horror.

That’s why, particularly with the understanding that Covid-19 isn’t going away any time soon, we cannot allow the public inquiry to be kicked into the long grass. Every week we delay the inquiry, we delay the learning of crucial lessons that could save lives both now and further down the line. Be it in relation to care homes, preventing transmission in hospitals or wider public health measures such as masks and ventilation, there are so many issues that remain unaddressed and the failure to learn puts so many at risk in the future.

Pushing back the inquiry also causes unnecessary pain and frustration for the bereaved. For many in our campaign like myself, the unanswered questions around our loved ones’ deaths haunt us every day. If different political decisions had been made, would my Dad still be with me? An inquiry that answers the many questions that our members have is critical to us experiencing closure and moving forward with our lives. The Government is denying us that. 

Nearly 18 months after my Dad’s death, it’s heartbreaking to still see families joining our group with such similar stories. If you’d like to support our campaign to learn lessons and save lives, please consider following us on Twitter and Facebook, making a donation or setting up a regular contribution to our campaign.

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