The draft Terms of Reference of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry have been published. The Inquiry, chaired by Baroness Hallett, will review the preparations and response to the pandemic in the UK, together with lessons learned, with devolved matters being considered as necessary. The Inquiry is being established under the Inquiries Act 2005, meaning it will have a high degree of formality, with powers to compel witnesses to give evidence and provide legal safeguards, amongst other things.

The draft Terms were published on 10 March 2022 and are open for public engagement and consultation until 7 April 2022.

The draft Terms of Reference are split into two categories of lines of inquiry: retrospective and prospective.

The first, retrospective category concerns the Covid-19 response and the impact of the pandemic across the United Kingdom. This includes central, devolved and local public health decision-making in relation to a broad range of matters, including preparedness and resilience, how decisions were made, communicated and implemented, and the availability and use of data and evidence.

The response of the health and care sector across the UK will also come under the spotlight, with key themes for review being:

  • preparedness, capacity and resilience;
  • pandemic management in hospitals and care homes;
  • the procurement and distribution of key equipment and supplies;
  • the development and delivery of therapeutics and vaccines;
  • the consequences of the pandemic on provision for non-Covid related conditions and needs;
  • provisions for those experiencing long-Covid.

The second, prospective line of inquiry is currently intended to identify the lessons to be learned from the findings in the first aim so as to inform the UK’s preparation for future pandemics and other civil emergencies.

The draft Terms of Reference are drafted in very broad terms, enabling the Inquiry considerable scope to look into an extremely wide range of topics, institutions, policies, decisions and their consequences. Though subject to consultation and further revision, the final Terms of Reference seem very likely to require scrutiny of the roles played by the health and care sector during the pandemic. Early preparation and planning for the Inquiry process is therefore likely to be beneficial for any organisations that are likely to fall within its scope.