Congress believes that the government’s public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic was calamitous. That the UK government performed badly is
unquestionable. With a death toll significantly worse than the predicted good outcome, they also delivered one of the worst excess deaths rates in the world. People died and families suffered unnecessarily because of government failings including the:
i. delayed lockdown
ii. disorganised procurement of protective equipment for frontline workers
iii. scandalous failure to prevent the tragedy that spread across care homes
iv. painfully slow efforts to build up testing capacity.
These failures cannot be hidden behind the self-congratulation over the Florence Nightingale hospital build.
Congress commends the actions of health and social care managers during the coronavirus pandemic. Congress notes that they kept services going, helped reduce infection rates, and saved lives. Managers in Partnership found that more than 20 per cent of their membership worked more than 20 hours of unpaid overtime a week for many months during the height of the crisis, earlier this year, and many now face consequences as a result of their service, an impact on their physical and psychological health from contracting coronavirus in their workplace, and an increase in stress-related
conditions from working long hours to ensure services did not collapse.
Congress notes that despite these efforts, which should be both commended and recognised, health and social care managers have been forced to operate in a hostile political environment where they are often seen as convenient scapegoats for decisions made at the ministerial level.
Over 10 years of Conservative-driven austerity left our NHS, care services and wider public services stretched beyond the capacity needed to effectively face such a pandemic. The heroic efforts of our frontline workers are therefore all the greater given the circumstances they faced.
Populism appears to have driven policy ahead of public health needs and scientific advice, with government statements flip-flopping almost daily. The extent to which ministers struggled to deal with the logistics of managing such a pandemic had more to do with their decision to boycott breakfast TV than any claims of aggressive questioning.
Congress therefore calls for an immediate public enquiry into the handling of the pandemic in the hope that any decisions needed to deal with a second spike can be based on lessons learned rather than the populist leanings of our egotistical prime minister and his cohorts.
Congress is dismayed the government has committed to only an “independent” inquiry with no timescale, rather than a full public inquiry.
Congress believes that a full public inquiry must take place and report this year before winter, when there are fears there could be a second peak of the virus.
Congress therefore calls on the TUC to:
a. campaign for a public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic that is focused on learning and identifying areas for improvement
b. campaign for a fair and reasonable social care settlement— the focus of the
government should not be on a major NHS reorganisation when the social care system is on the brink of collapse after suffering decades of neglect
c. lobby the government to create an accurate picture of what happened during the first wave of the pandemic, especially the impact on BME communities, from significant scientific and social research
d. campaign for agreements to be put in place to pay overtime (where
this is not currently contractual) to health and care managers during the
Mover: Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association
Supporters: National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers;
Royal College of Midwives