Call for UK Govt to handover emergency planning

Call for UK Government to handover emergency planning following COVID-19 mistakes

Fri, 08 May 2020 14:05:00 BST
Dr Patrick Ring
Dr Patrick Ring

The UK government made key failings in its strategic preparations for COVID-19 and should hand over future planning for health emergencies to an independent body, according to a new report. 

Researchers claim the mistakes left stockpiles short of vital supplies and capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and testing and piled pressure on the NHS.

The findings are included in a new research paper for the Journal of Risk Research by academics from Glasgow Caledonian University, Cass Business School, in London, Nottingham University, and Vlerick Business School, in Belgium.

The risk management experts found that the NHS’s resilience to the pandemic was compromised by an over-reliance on ‘lean production’ and ‘just in time’ continuity planning. 

They argue the UK government failed to act on systemic weaknesses highlighted through emergency exercises.

The researchers suggest a new independent body should be set up to take responsibility for future national emergency preparedness, free from political interference.

Dr Patrick Ring, Reader in Financial Services at Glasgow Caledonian University and one of the authors of the paper, said: "The risks employees are expected to face on a daily basis are unprecedented and should never be repeated.

"It may now be time to consider whether national emergency preparedness, resilience, and response should be given over to a public body with independent governance arrangements similar to those of the Bank of England.  

"This public body could be enshrined in law, with the NHS pandemic preparedness and resilience responsibilities falling under its umbrella.

"No matter how low the probabilities are, when the stakes are so high there can be no room for complacency, posturing, or political ideology.​

"The most recent problems with PPE from Turkey illustrate the fragility of the government’s reliance upon global supply chains and the importance of national preparedness."

Lead researcher Dr Cormac Bryce, of Cass Business School, said: "The warnings to prepare were there for those willing to look and act for years.  

"This inability to develop resilience in the face of COVID-19 has hampered the upscaling of testing for key workers and the vulnerable in care homes - those most at risk.”

The paper, ‘Resilience in the face of uncertainty: early lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic’, is published in the Journal of Risk Research as part of a special issue providing international perspectives on the pandemic.