Doctor calls government actions ‘complete dereliction of duty’ at People’s Covid Inquiry

A consultant has attacked the government's handling of PPE procurement during the pandemic


A consultant and author has attacked the government’s handling of PPE procurement at the fourth session of campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public’s People’s Covid Inquiry.

Dr Rachel Clarke, consultant in palliative care medicine and bestselling author, also shared her own personal experience of the pandemic at the session on Wednesday night (April 7).

She said: “Care homes had a completely different supply chain (and hospices were categorised as care homes). We were only issued with a two-day supply of masks…there was a much more widespread, really invisible problem of a lack of PPE in non-hospital areas.

“We kept calling the allegedly 24/7 hotline and there was no response, and eventually we were told they couldn’t supply us with any more masks, even when told the hospice would have to close to inpatients.

“The hotline was a nonsense, it didn’t help at all…the only way we were able to stay open was by contacting a charity looking to source PPE…we were begging everyone for masks as we couldn’t get them from the government, it was a complete dereliction of duty.”

Session four of the Inquiry (chaired by renowned human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC) was titled Impact on the population: Disability and social care in the pandemic and it examined ​why the impact on disabled people and those in social care was so significant.

The Inquiry heard testimony from campaigners for disabled people and from health academics, who discussed the treatment of disabled people and palliative patients throughout the pandemic.

Ellen Clifford, author and campaigner (Disabled People Against the Cuts) explained how the government’s policy towards disabled people was mainly reactionary and that it was only through the concerted campaigning by disabled people themselves that action was taken to support their needs regarding Covid.

Professor Martin McKee, professor of European public health, member of Independent SAGE, responded when questioned to the claim that the government had “thrown a protective ring around care homes”.

He said: “It wasn’t true at all…care homes were institutional amplifiers…there was not an understanding at the time that many people worked across [different] care homes, it was fairly obvious that this would be a problem, but it wasn’t recognised as such.

“We have a crisis of governance, that’s the fundamental problem…we need to look at the problems in society, but unfortunately that is not going to happen in the immediate future.”

Counsel to the Inquiry barrister Lorna Hackett, later asked Professor McKee for his views on the new UK Health Security Agency, to which he replied: “Colloquially [it is] referred to as MI7…there are very many questions that remain unanswered…there is a concern that anything inside government is unlikely to deal with the social determinants of health.”

In the absence of an arranged formal public investigation, campaigners believe that the time for a Covid Inquiry is now, in order to analyse why this country has suffered over 100,000 deaths, and what lessons should be learned to inform future decision and policy making.

The four remaining sessions will take place fortnightly until June and focus on different topics relevant to the pandemic. The People’s Covid Inquiry will culminate in a report with conclusions and a set of recommendations which will be presented to the government.

Testimony gathered will provide the basis for evidence-based recommendations on the provision of health and social care in the UK, including the future funding and organisation of the NHS. Sessions are free to access and open to all. 

You can watch the session here and register for future sessions by visiting

The next session will take place on Wednesday 21 April at 7pm.

Samantha Wathen is the Press and Media Officer for Keep Our NHS Public, a national independent organisation striving for a well-funded and fully publicly provided NHS. Follow her on Twitter @SamanthaJWathen

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