‘We must prepare for a second wave of coronavirus’ – read the open letter from health leaders in full

Some of the UK’s leading medical experts have asked the government to prepare for a second wave of coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)

Health leaders have appealed to the UK government to prepare for a second wave of coronavirus.

In an open letter, 16 medical experts urged UK leaders to bear in mind the likelihood of a second wave of the virus, and to be transparent with the public about what is being done to prepare for it.

The letter suggests a “constructive, non-partisan, four nations approach” when it comes to getting the entire UK ready for a further outbreak of Covid-19.

The message outlines a number of policy areas which the group feels need “rapid attention” from the government, including “parliamentary scrutiny”, “disproportionate burden on black, Asian, and minority ethnic individuals and communities”, and “international collaboration.”

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The letter in full

“Dear leaders of UK political parties,

“Several countries are now experiencing Covid-19 flare-ups. While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk. Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain. The job now is not only to deal urgently with the wide ranging impacts of the first phase of the pandemic, but to ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase.

“You may have seen the recent editorial in The BMJ calling for a transparent rapid review of where we are and what needs to be done to prevent and prepare for a second wave. We believe that such a review is crucial and needs to happen soon if the public is to have confidence that the virus can be contained.

“The review should not be about looking back or attributing blame. Rather it should be a rapid and forward looking assessment of national preparedness, based on an examination of the complex and inter-related policy areas listed below. These are too broad for any one of the existing select committees. That is why a cross party commission was suggested, establishing a constructive, non-partisan, four nations approach that could rapidly produce practical recommendations for action, based on what we have all learnt, and without itself becoming a distraction for those at the front line or in government.

“These recommendations should not require primary legislation or major organisational change. The approach would also help the public understand how and by whom they will be implemented. We believe this will be essential if the UK is to get ahead of the curve.

“We are aware of YouGov polls showing that a majority of the public now support an “inquiry.” We also know that the prime minister and secretary of state for health and social care have received a petition from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, requesting a full public inquiry. The group has also called for an urgent interim inquiry, which shares the same fundamental approach and objective as our suggested rapid review: that it should be forward looking, practical, responsive to what the public at large want to see happen, and focused on evaluating national preparedness in the lead up to winter, with the aim of saving lives.

“We are not wedded to any particular design of inquiry or review, but as outlined in the editorial, we believe it should be quick, broad, ambitious, able to command widespread public and stakeholder trust, and needs to happen now. It should focus on those areas of weakness where action is needed urgently to prevent further loss of life and restore the economy as fully and as quickly as possible. We believe the list below includes those areas.

“As stakeholders and leaders of the UK’s medical, nursing, and public health professions, we urge you to establish such a review. We think there’s a strong case for an immediate assessment of national preparedness, with the first results available no later than August, and that all its work should be completed by the end of October. We don’t underestimate the complexities of establishing this in the required timeframe. We stand by ready to help in whatever way we can.

“Policy areas needing rapid attention:

  • Governance including parliamentary scrutiny and involvement of regional and local structures and leaders
  • Procurement of goods and services
  • Coordination of existing structures, in a way designed to optimise the establishment of effective public health and communicable disease control infrastructure, the resilience of the NHS as a whole, and the shielding of vulnerable individuals and communities
  • The disproportionate burden on black, Asian, and minority ethnic individuals and communities
  • International collaboration, especially to mitigate any new difficulties in pandemic management due to Brexit”

Who signed the letter?

  • Victor Adebowale – Chief Executive of the social care enterprise Turning Point and a People’s Peer
  • Derek Alderson – emeritus Professor of Surgery at the University of Birmingham
  • Wendy Burn – President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
  • Jeanette Dixon – President of The Royal College of Radiologists
  • Fiona Godlee – Editor in Chief of the British Medical Journal
  • Andrew Goddard – President of the Royal College of Physicians of London
  • Michael Griffin – President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
  • Katherine Henderson – President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine
  • Richard Horton – Editor in Chief of The Lancet medical journal
  • Martin Marshall – Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners
  • Jo Martin – President of the Royal College of Pathologists
  • Edward Morris – President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • Chaand Nagpaul – Chair of the Council of the British Medical Association
  • Maggie Rae – President of The Faculty of Public Health
  • Anne Marie Rafferty – Former President of the Royal College of Nursing
  • Jackie Taylor – President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

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