We started the week with the notification that Boris Johnson failed to hand over his mobile Covid WhatsApp messages before the 4pm Monday inquiry deadline. We’ve had Brexit and poor lines of communication, but now we have a new excuse to add to the list – Boris can’t switch on his old phone.
First up on Monday was Dr. Class Kirchelle, who was “instructed by the Inquiry to address the following matters: the history of public health bodies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland”.
Yet again, the problem with the inquiry is the lack of focus. Instead of asking what public health interventions are evidence-based and not implemented, the inquiry discusses irrelevant topics, such as the increase in laboratories in 1965.
Medicine has moved on significantly, and the focus on public health misses out that the detection and mangement of respiratory agents is the bread and butter of primary care. Interpretation, therefore, requires an understanding of how the health system works, how medicine has evolved and the nature of respiratory illnesses. Oh, and also maybe some evidence. If you also want to know about public health, we also think you should have gone to the horse’s mouth and called up those public health officials who have some skin in the game and could have given a real-world experience of the changes and how these changed the situation on the ground.
Professor Sir Michael McBride, Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer, also provided more ammo for the B-word excuse:
I think — well, it’s absolutely correct to say that that work wasn’t finished, for the reasons that you’ve outlined, both at a U.K. and at a Northern Ireland level because resources were diverted to EU exit planning.
Even Lady Hallett is now in agreement with the Brexit effect.
LADY HALLETT: “Were pressures on the PHA exacerbated by uncertainty about regulatory arrangements pending the exit from the European Union?”
Sir Michael’s Answer. “No immediate examples come to mind. There is no doubt, however, that their capacity was deflected, as everybody’s was, in terms of trying to plan and prepare for EU exit; but I can’t think of specific examples in response to that.”
LADY HALLETT: Well, I think everybody’s agreed there was an impact.
The argument is that everyone was distracted, it was Brexit that did it, and because of austerity everyone was underfunded, particularly public health. However, the question in the room should be if you weren’t distracted, had sufficient funds and had a phone that worked, what would you have done differently to be prepared?