Last week, the Inquiry published details of the first investigations. This announcement has important consequences for local government.

The Inquiry will take a modular approach to its investigations, looking at the pandemic response in sections matching its Terms of Reference. On timings, Baroness Hallet commented, “I will open the first three modules and hold preliminary hearings this year, with substantive public hearings beginning in late Spring 2023.” The deadline for applying to become a Core Participant in Module 1 is 16 August so time is tight.

Module 1

This will consider the extent to which the risk of a coronavirus pandemic was properly identified and planned for and whether the UK was ready for that eventuality. The module will look at the UK’s preparedness for whole-system civil emergencies, including resourcing, the system of risk management and pandemic readiness. It will scrutinise government decision-making relating to planning and seek to identify lessons from earlier incidents and simulations and international comparisons. It is planned to hold the first preliminary hearing in this module in September and the full public hearings for Module 1 will be starting in spring next year. The application process for those who wish to be considered as Core Participants to Module 1 has begun.

Module 2

The second module will be split into parts. The first part will look at core political and administrative governance and decision-making for the UK. It will cover the initial UK response to the Covid-19 pandemic and address central government decision-making, including political and civil service performance and the effectiveness of relationships with the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, local authority and voluntary/community sectors. It will look at the decision-making for non-pharmaceutical interventions (in other words the lockdowns and all the other restrictions and requirements), as well as the use of scientific expertise, data collection and modelling, government and public health communications, including behavioural science, messaging and the maintenance of confidence and parliamentary oversight and regulatory control.

Module 3

This module will examine the impact of Covid, and of the governmental and societal responses to it, on healthcare systems generally and on patients, hospital and other healthcare workers and staff. Among other issues, it will investigate healthcare systems and governance, hospitals, primary care (including GPs and dentists), the impact on NHS backlogs and non-Covid treatment, the effects on healthcare provision of vaccination programmes and Long Covid diagnosis and support.

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