Some good things on preparedness
Going forwards, the Select Committee does make some genuinely helpful recommendations for the future.
We also welcome the Report’s recommendation that the NHS requires additional resources to ‘buffer’ against future pandemics. However, we see no sign that the Department of Health or NHS England are moving in this direction. In fact, Simon Stevens’s ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ (affectionately referred to as ‘Slash, Trash and Privatise‘ in the Telegraph) are based on continued reductions in NHS bed capacity.
We also welcome the Health Select Committee’s recommendation that SAGE advice to ministers should be published daily in any future pandemic, and agree that greater transparency will enhance pandemic responsiveness by enabling the wider scientific community to challenge groupthink. We wonder why the Select Committee did not recommend that reports from previous pandemic exercises are published for the same reason.
Poor information or disinformation?
Jeremy Hunt MP claimed on BBC Radio 4 today that “ministers were not briefed” on Exercise Alice.
What he is asking us to believe is that the Chief Medical Officer – Dame Sally Davies – raised concerns about national preparedness for a MERS pandemic, organised Exercise Alice without ministerial involvement, received a consensus view from multiple experts that we needed to ensure contact tracing, PPE stocks and NHS bed capacity, and then decided to withhold that information from every minister at the Department of Health. 'Jeremy Hunt is asking us to believe the CMO was worried about MERS Coronavirus preparedness, organised Exercise Alice without his involvement, then failed to communicate consensus concerns about PPE and NHS bed capacity to Ministers.' Click To Tweet
BBC Radio 4: Mishal Husain asks Jeremy Hunt MP about Exercise Alice
Serious questions for the Select Committee
The Committee’s report says, “the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia illustrates the value of learning those lessons from SARS and MERS”.
The glaring question which remains unanswered throughout the Report goes as follows: If learning from MERS was so important, why didn’t we learn those lessons from Exercise Alice? 'If the Health Select Committee believes we could have learned valuable lessons from the MERS pandemic, then why didn't it look at our failure to learn from Exercise Alice?' Click To Tweet