Open Letter: What's the plan Matt?

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

The government failed to prepare us for COVID-19.

NHS staff didn't have the equipment they needed. Some were given out-of-date PPE, while others had none at all. We didn't have the infrastructure we needed and there was a great deal of confusion about "who was in charge" across the UK. Poor planning put the whole nation at risk.

Next time we must be prepared. We're asking #WhatsThePlanMatt? and calling on our Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to develop a new Pandemic Preparedness Plan.

Can you sign our open letter to Matt Hancock today?

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To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
From: [Your Name]

Dear Matt Hancock,

You failed to prepare us for COVID-19; we now need a Pandemic Preparedness Plan.

Exercise Cygnus was carried out in 2016; to test out how our country would cope with a pandemic. A report was written and recommendations were made to the government which would have helped us to cope as our health and social services became overwhelmed with COVID-19. Including forming an overarching health body to oversee and coordinate policy and streamlining decisions about who would receive PPE from the national stockpile.

Most of these recommendations were ignored by the government, and the report itself was buried (only published following pressure from many sources, in October 2020).

The early months of the pandemic were chaotic. Some NHS staff were given out-of-date PPE, some had none at all. Thousands of health and social care workers were left at risk; and carried this risk to their patients and their families. Almost a thousand frontline health and social care workers died. Care homes were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

We didn’t have the equipment we needed. We didn’t have the infrastructure we needed. There was also a great deal of confusion about “who was in charge” across the UK.

Poor planning put the whole nation at risk.

There may be another pandemic. Next time we must be prepared. We’re calling on you to develop a new Pandemic Preparedness Plan. You must, please:

- Develop a new Pandemic Preparedness Plan by re-visiting the recommendations made in the Exercise Cygnus report from July 2017, discuss these with experts, and implement all which are deemed necessary.
- Consult with health and social care bodies across the UK, to learn from their experiences during COVID-19.
- Speak to frontline staff in health and social care services across the UK.
Improve support for frontline workers who carry a risk for us all during a pandemic, by providing sick pay death-in-service benefits, accommodation for frontline workers who can’t safely live at home, and facilitate priority testing for those working on the frontline.
- Commit to responsible procurement of pandemic equipment ahead of and during the pandemic; for example ensuring our PPE stockpile is not out-of-date.

A Pandemic Preparedness Plan is absolutely essential to safeguard the UK ahead of potential future health threats. Please listen to us; it’s time to act.

References:
*https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-pandemic-preparedness/annex-a-about-exercise-cygnus
*https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/03/28/exercise-cygnus-uncovered-pandemic-warnings-buried-government/
*https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-pandemic-preparedness/exercise-cygnus-report-accessible-report#the-report-on-exercise-cygnus
*https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/six-crucial-pandemic-lessons-government-ignored/
*https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/371/bmj.m4499.full.pdf
*https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-52230253
*https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/03/nhs-staff-protection-doctor-ppe-coronavirus
*https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbyoccupationenglandandwales/deathsregisteredbetween9marchand28december2020#deaths-involving-covid-19-among-men-and-women-health-and-social-care-workers
*https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/31/uk-care-home-staff-at-breaking-point-as-coronavirus-cases-rise