The Government has published draft terms of reference for the forthcoming public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inquiry Chair, Baroness Hallett was consulted by the Government and Ministers in the devolved administrations.
The Government has indicated that the terms of reference intend to cover:
- the public health response
- the response in the health and care sector
- the economic response
The Cabinet Office hopes that the inquiry will play a role in learning the lessons from the pandemic and informing the Government’s preparations for the future.
The inquiry will look at the impact of the pandemic on some of the most criticised aspects of the Government’s handling of the pandemic including testing, care homes and procurement.
Working with Devolved Administrations:
The Government has been quick to point out their work with devolved administrations – enabling the terms to allow for an inquiry which is UK-wide.
The Cabinet Office is keen to stress that it will not duplicate any inquiry established on a devolved basis and respects their autonomy.
Following heavy criticism that the Inquiry has been built without reference to patients and families, the Government has tried to stress that it reflects the “importance of understanding” of the experiences of those most affected by the pandemic – including bereaved families.
It will also look at any disparities evident in the impact of the pandemic and the Government’s response.
The Government has announced a period of public engagement and consultation. This process is expected to last for four weeks and will be led by Baroness Hallett to inform further changes to the terms of reference before they are finalised.
If people are looking for someone to blame for the handling of the pandemic, the terms of reference published today will leave a lot of people disappointed.
Given the strength of feeling, it is highly likely that Baroness Hallett is going to receive a significant number of responses to her ‘consultation.’
A cynic would raise an eyebrow about the timing of the decision to publish terms of reference looking into the deaths of 163,000 people. Normally the Government would brief such forthcoming major statements, however – there was no warning with today’s announcement. With the ongoing war in Ukraine diverting the attention of the media, it will come as no surprise that the Government decided to pick today to publish.