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‘Damning’: Welsh GP blasts UK Gov for losing pandemic preparedness plan

05 Aug 2021 4 minute read
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

A GP from Gwynedd has hit out after discovering that a blueprint to deal with a coronavirus pandemic was “lost” 16 years ago.

Dr Eilir Hughes, who is among a group of medics calling for an “urgent investigation” into the Welsh Government’s handling of the outbreak, said the revelation was “damning”.

He raised his concerns on Twitter after it emerged the plan, drawn up by the UK Government in 2005, was apparently “lost” in Whitehall and was not acted upon or considered when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.

According to the Independent, the plan, which was a response to the SARS outbreak, recommended building up infrastructure for virus testing and PPE stockpiling in case of an outbreak, while response measures included travel restrictions, isolating and testing contacts with infections, and limiting “super-spreader” events.

Former government advisors believe that tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if the report’s recommendations had been implemented from the outset.

It was reported that one senior medical adviser who served in Downing Street throughout the last decade said they were “totally surprised” to learn of the blueprint, despite having worked in emergency health planning and pandemic preparedness.

Dr Hughes said: “This is damning. The contingency plan for a coronavirus epidemic written SIXTEEN years ago got LOST and so we followed a Flu one instead!

“The 2005 plan, put together by the DoH, warns of spread via ‘finer aerosols of infectious respiratory secretions, which stay in the air longer than droplets,, meaning it can be passed from one person to another through the nose, mouth or eyes. Covid-19 transmits like this!

“The document, drawn up in response to Sars, recommended building up infrastructure for virus testing and PPE stockpiling in case of an outbreak.

“It even warned of the risk of ‘super-spreading events’ and reiterates the need for good ventilation, particularly in a healthcare setting, in order to ‘direct airflow … and remove contaminated air’.

“Ever heard of #FreshAirNHS?

“In the ’lessons learnt’ section, the document stresses the need for increased infection control measures – such as high-quality personal protective equipment (PPE) – in healthcare settings.

“The Sars plan could have played a key part in the Covid response.

“We would have known about airflow, we would have protected our staff better and thought about the co-morbidities more.”

‘Urgent investigation’ 

Last month Dr Hughes, a member of a group called Medics4MaskUpWales, was one of 35 doctors and health professionals from Wales calling for the “urgent investigation” into the way the Welsh Government had handled the pandemic.

Their letter said: “The nation has undergone two large waves of COVID-19 infections and despite a successful vaccination programme, we are unfortunately at the start of a third wave driven by the Delta variant.

“The pandemic in Wales has directly caused over 5,500 deaths, unmeasured levels of ill-health and chronic disability related to long-COVID, more than 6 months of missed education days, major economic consequences as well as an increasingly insurmountable strain on the Welsh NHS.

“We believe that there is an urgent need to look back at the experiences of the last 15 months, to scrutinise the decisions and actions undertaken in line with the growing scientific evidence that has developed both nationally and internationally; to review best practice and to reflect on and learn from any mistakes that were made.

“Lessons learnt can then be used to inform responses to the pandemic going forwards.”

“We strongly urge the Welsh Government to signal the deaths and other harm related to SARS-CoV-2 as a serious incident and use its devolved powers to urgently initiate an investigation into the handling of the pandemic in Wales,” the letter states.

“We implore that any investigation is undertaken without delay so that lessons can be learnt as we head into further waves of COVID-19 infections with the possibility of new vaccines resistant strains ahead and normal winter pressures.

“Not only will prolonging the instigation of a comprehensive investigation impede any meaningful return towards a routinely working health service, but it risks increasing pressure on an already overwhelmed NHS.”

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2 years ago

I expect the treasury filled it away for safe keeping:
“But the plans were on display…”“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”“That’s the display department.”“With a flashlight.”“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”“So had the stairs.”“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

2 years ago

Yep. They “lost” that preparedness plan and apparently all the findings from Exercise Cygnus in 2016.
Westminster is not a proper and competent entity.
Let’s leave it.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
2 years ago

I wonder if this makes any difference to his demands on the Welsh government? Seems that they could do little when Westminster was making such a FUBAR of the basics.

2 years ago

The bbc broadcast a very interesting documentary/experiment in 2018, “Contagion, The BBC Four Pandemic” the results from this appeared to be largely ignored. Same with the Foot and Mouth outbreak, research into how the 1960’s outbreak was handled/ controlled was ignored, it would appear politicians are not only incapable of learning from past experience, mistakes but refuse to listen to advice unless it suits their preset thoughts/agenda

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Curiously I’d watched it on iPlayer not long before Covid-19 appeared. The mathematical modelling used by Hannah Fry was eerily accurate. Anyone watching it would have known what was needed before any of the experts gave their talks. It still took an age before the idea of super spreaders took off and by then it was far too late. In spite of being an island the UK government couldn’t keep us safe from a virus that had to travel thousands of miles across continents. And yet, millions of morons will still vote for them. Sometimes I think we just get… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Huw Davies
Mandi A
Mandi A
2 years ago

Florence Nightingale wrote down all we need to know about hygiene and infection control. Any self-respecting doctor, nurse or public health official knows what needs to be done. All these other reports are flim-flam. When we had Health Authorities, they had Public Health Departments with full track and trace capacity. I was working at Ysbyty Gwynedd in 2005 when a patient came in with “flu”. His GP letter said clearly that he had just come back from the Far East but no-one picked it up. Once it had been pointed out, we had the whole Infection Control Army in the… Read more »

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