DOCTORS’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) has launched its own ‘Lessons Learned’ inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic. This is ahead of the Tory government’s public inquiry, which does not start until the spring of 2022.
Doctors say they are not prepared to wait for years while the public inquiry gathers evidence and then years later publishes its findings. They want answers now. Answers to the life and death questions which, in fact, implicate the government in the deaths of 128,000 people from coronavirus, 20,000 of which were in care homes, and over 1,000 of which were of NHS workers.
Compared to its population, Britain has an even higher death rate from coronavirus than the US. Britain with a population of 67 million has a rate of 192.36 deaths per 100,000 population, and the US has a rate of 184.69.
The BMA Lessons Learned investigation will focus on five main areas:
1. The protection of healthcare workers from coronavirus.
2. The impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers.
3. Delivery of healthcare during the pandemic.
4. The public health response to the pandemic.
5. The impact of the pandemic on population health.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The public inquiry into the country’s handling of the pandemic will probably take years to gather evidence and publish its findings – so we should not be waiting to uncover the reasons why the UK has suffered the highest death toll in Europe, or the seventh highest in the world, as well as the devastating impact on our health service and its staff.’
Doctors, nurses and NHS staff were not provided with the most basic of protection – there were not enough gloves, masks, aprons or visors.
Elderly patients who had contracted coronavirus were turfed out of NHS hospital beds and sent back to their care home without being tested first to even see if they were positive or not. As a result, the virus spread throughout care homes across the UK like wildfire.
The Tory government have spent the last 11 years closing A&Es, maternity services and children’s wards. They abolished the student nurses’ and midwives’ bursaries and replaced them with a student loan. They froze NHS workers’ pay for years. They forced new contracts on the junior doctors and they made GPs’ lives so uncomfortable that many took early retirement.
All of this created a perfect storm and now the NHS is 36,655 nurses short, according to NHS Digital. To add insult to injury, the government has only offered nurses a 1% ‘pay rise’, a pay cut when inflation is taken into account.
The government have no intention of ‘learning lessons’. Just like they refuse to implement the lessons of the Grenfell fire. Why? Because capitalism is driven by profit, and not the protection of human life.
We do not need to wait for a ‘public inquiry’ to probe this government’s complicity in the deaths of 128,000 people in the UK from Covid-19. It is there for everyone to see.
The very measures which proved able to drive down deaths – masks, social distancing and self-isolating – have now been abandoned by this government. The Tories are hell-bent on reopening the economy and getting the wheels of capitalism turning a profit, no matter what.
These actions will undoubtedly cost lives, especially the lives of those in the frontline public services, transport workers, teachers, health workers and civil servants.
Now is the time to act. The BMA also says that when the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) comes back with their recommendations in the next few days, if the recommendation is not close to 4%, they will ballot for industrial action. The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) have put aside a £35 million strike fund, ready to launch their strike ballot for a 12.5% increase in pay.
There will be no satisfactory government pay offer. The NHS unions must be ready to take strike action to win the RCN’s 12.5% wage rise demand for all NHS workers. There is massive support for the health workers’ pay demand in all trade unions. There will be no lack of sympathy strike action!
In fact, all workers will support a general strike to win for NHS workers, who have worked like demons to save lives during the pandemic, the 12.5% pay rise that they deserve.
The hour has struck for mass action: All NHS workers must strike for a 12.5% pay rise. Forward with a general strike by all unions to win a 12.5% rise, bring down the Tories, to bring in a Workers’ Government and Socialism!