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Lung health campaigners call for independent Welsh Covid inquiry after Scotland takes step

25 Aug 2021 6 minutes Read
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash

 

 

Asthma UK & the British Lung Foundation Wales have backed calls for a Welsh inquiry into the handling of Covid-19 pandemic, after Scotland took the same step.

It comes after Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives urged the Welsh Government to set up its own independent inquiry yesterday.

Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday that the Scottish government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic would be investigated by a judge-led public inquiry.

She said it would be established “to scrutinise decisions taken in the course of this pandemic, and learn lessons for future pandemics”.

Asthma UK & the British Lung Foundation Wales called on the Welsh Government to follow Scotland and examine not only the decisions they took during the pandemic but also the way healthcare services are delivered in the future.

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK, and British Lung Foundation Wales said that if the Welsh Government wanted to set its own independent rules it should have its own standalone inquiry.

“We saw yesterday that the Scottish Government will establish its own judge-led inquiry by the end of the year,” he said. “It is time for the Welsh Government to follow their example.

“Recently we saw the Welsh Government take its own decisions on how we in Wales should act to limit the spread of COVID 19 and keep each other safe.

“However, if the Welsh Government is able to forge its own path in terms of the rules we follow, it is vital that the decisions that same government have made are scrutinised in a Wales specific COVID 19 inquiry.

“It is not only the way in which we are required by Welsh law to wear a mask on public transport which is worthy of consideration, but decisions relating to care and treatment for which the Welsh Government are also responsible.

“During the Pandemic, Welsh Ministers took decisions relating to the Welsh NHS and Care Sector, and while undoubtedly, they will have been impacted by decisions made by the UK Government, the nuance of such decisions would be lost in a UK wide inquiry into the pandemic response.

“The past 18 months has seen a greater awareness of devolved responsibility than ever before. Such accountability must be embraced rather than handed off to a government who do not take decisions in this field for the people of Wales.”

‘No system’

Asthma UK, and British Lung Foundation Wales added that there needed to be scrutiny not just about treatment of Covid but how the Welsh Government handled supermarket delivery slots for those who were shielding.

Alice Spencer, whose daughter has Cystic Fibrosis, said that they had suffered from poor communication between the government and supermarkets regarding priority supermarket delivery slots and who was on the shielding list.

“In England, Cystic Fibrosis families could register as shielding on the government website and then were being contacted by supermarkets for priority slots,” he said. “There was no such system in Wales.

“We had the paperwork to prove we were shielding but the supermarkets wouldn’t accept it as proof. They would only accept information direct from the government. This was extremely worrying for us.”

‘Right thing’

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said yesterday that the Welsh Government should follow the Scottish Government and set up its own independent inquiry.

“The Scottish First Minister – like the Prime Minister – has done the right thing by announcing a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic by her government,” he said.

“Regrettably in Wales, Labour and the First Minister have sought to block such scrutiny, transparency and accountability and it’s an unacceptable situation which cannot continue.

“Decisions made in Wales – both good and bad – had a direct impact on lives and that cannot be dismissed by a Labour administration that was keen to stress at every opportunity that they have done things differently.

“The calls from bereaved families in Wales are getting louder and louder, and the First Minister should now confirm that those people who’ve lost loved ones will receive the same respect from their government in Wales as in other parts of Britain.”

Plaid Cymru Health and Care spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth MS also called for a Wales-only inquiry.

“For over a year Plaid Cymru has asked for a Wales-only public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic,” he said. “The Labour Government in Cardiff has instead opted to have a Welsh chapter in a UK-wide inquiry.

“The Scottish Government has today announced it will hold its own public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic by the end of the year. The Welsh Government have no excuse not to do the same.

“Wales rightly acted independently in so many areas during the pandemic and with so many of the relevant policy areas devolved, and so many decisions having been taken in Wales, we need a Wales-specific inquiry.

“The loss of life, as well as the loss of freedoms, of education, and a deep economic impact will weigh heavy on us for years to come. We need to look at what happened in detail, and in public, to learns lessons for the future.

“The Welsh Government has got to take responsibility for its actions – good and bad, and there should be no avoidance of detailed scrutiny.

“In rejecting the demand for a Wales-specific public inquiry, the Labour Government is essentially agreeing to the Prime Minister’s delay, and confirming that they’re happy for Wales to be a chapter in the deferred UK inquiry. The people of Wales are owed more than that.”

‘Interconnected’

The Welsh government had previously said that they favour being part of the UK-wide inquiry which will start next Spring and have no plans for a Wales-only one.

“The UK-wide inquiry has been agreed between all four nations,” a Welsh government spokesman said.

“We have requested specific chapters of the inquiry deal exclusively with the lived experiences of those here in Wales.

“A UK-wide inquiry will have the capacity and force to oversee the interconnected nature of the decisions that have been made across the four nations and is the best way for the experiences of people in Wales to be properly understood.”

The announcement in Scotland came on the day their Covid minister John Swinney met bereaved families who have been calling for an inquiry.

“We will continue to listen to those affected by Covid-19, including bereaved families, on what they wish the public inquiry to focus on,” he said.

“Their feedback will be fundamental in reviewing the suggested approach set out here, and setting the terms of reference for an independent Scottish inquiry.

“Discussions are also ongoing with the UK government on the planned four nations inquiry, to ensure all areas that need to be considered are covered in a way that gives confidence to bereaved families and others.”

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