Covid-19 has created extraordinary emotional and physical turmoil across the country and has challenged healthcare institutions across the UK. The threat to the most medically vulnerable, however, has been even more severe.
Initial meetings of the APPG raised the issues of the UK’s high Covid-19 mortality rate, failures in the protection of vulnerable people, and disruption to routine healthcare. As such, the members felt it was imperative that an inquiry be run to formally collect evidence on these issues. We asked patients, patient groups, charities, clinicians and other stakeholders: What lessons can be taken from the government’s response to Covid-19 to inform long-term health policy on preparedness for future pandemics in the UK?
By placing the medically vulnerable at the heart of the APPG’s discussions on the harrowing effects of Covid-19, this inquiry focuses on the people affected by the pandemic. The inquiry was open from January 2021 and submissions were encouraged throughout the year until October. We received a multitude of contributions including: emails from individuals; copies of reports published by patient organisations during the pandemic; written statements from charities; and testimonies during the four events run by the APPG throughout the year attended by parliamentarians, clinicians, charities, patients, and members of the public. All of these helped to formulate evidence-based suggestions designed to elicit policy discussion and relevant policy change for future pandemics that will better protect and support the medically vulnerable.
The new 'living with Covid-19' strategy makes this inquiry even more salient. To protect vulnerable groups there remains the need for, among many other things, monoclonal antibody research, available testing for carers and those coming into contact with CEV people, employment protection and continued financial support. The reduction of these necessities shows that vulnerable people are still not enough of a priority and our report should be recognized and acted upon by the government as soon as possible. The ‘Living with Covid’ strategy needs to be more dedicated to vulnerable people and better clarify how they will be cared for.
Our findings and the policy recommendations are detailed in our inquiry report, ‘Plan, Prioritise, Protect: Redefining the Needs of Vulnerable Groups to Pandemics Through Covid-19’.
We have also produced a supplementary case study into cancer treatment across the country during Covid-19: ‘Backlog and delay - Covid-19 cancer treatment’. This shows the huge drop in referrals and long treatment delays for cancer patients. This specific look at this particular vulnerable group supports the findings of the inquiry and emphasizes the urgent need for action on the findings of this inquiry.