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Lawyers cautiously welcome announcement of covid public inquiry

Law firm Leigh Day has cautiously welcomed the announcement by Boris Johnson yesterday that a public inquiry into how the COVID crisis was handled will take place in spring 2022.

Posted on 13 May 2021

Mr Johnston stated that the government are committed to learning lessons from the pandemic and that the inquiry will make recommendations for the future. The terms of reference and chair of the inquiry are to be confirmed at a later date.

The inquiry will have full powers under the Inquiries Act 2005, “including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral evidence in public under oath”, Mr Johnston told Parliament.

Leigh Day has represented a number of people and groups on COVID-related issues, including the family of Mary Agyapong, a nurse who died from coronavirus shortly after giving birth. The firm also represents: John’s Campaign who have been campaigning in relation to visiting arrangements for care homes; a blind woman who is challenging the government for their failure to communicate with her about COVID-19 in an accessible way; The Ubele Initiative who have pressed the government for an inquiry regarding the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black and South Asian communities; and a number of bereaved families over the lack of PPE and other workplace protections provided by employers during the COVID outbreak.

Solicitors at Leigh Day have commenced legal action on behalf of a number of disabled individuals who have been denied access to services due to their inability to wear a facemask. Leigh Day also represented Kate Masters, who pushed the Health Secretary to publish clear guidance to ensure to ensure patients and families understand how Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) decisions are made in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sally Moore, head of the personal injury department at law firm Leigh Day, said:

“We welcome the announcement that a full public inquiry will be set up to examine the handling of the coronavirus pandemic so that the public can fully scrutinise the government’s actions.

“While the details of the scope of the inquiry are yet to be determined we hope that it will fully examine the impact on healthcare workers including the provision of PPE at the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, we hope it will look at the adequacy and effectiveness of the compensation scheme for the families of healthcare workers who have died as a result of COVID.”

Suzanne White, who represents the family of Mary Agyapong, a nurse who died from coronavirus shortly after giving birth, said:

“At the inquest into the death of Mary, the coroner called for an inquiry to be held as soon as possible. Like us, she could see the personal devastating impact that deaths from COVID-19 have had on families. Those families need answers to their questions, and they deserve to have them sooner rather than later. Now that the government has made this commitment to an inquiry next spring, we hope they will do everything they can to ensure it stays on track. People who have lost loved ones need to know that the government cares enough about their grief to establish and be honest what went wrong.”

Merry Varney, human rights Partner who represented Kate Masters, added:

“One of the concerns that must be examined by the inquiry is how do not resuscitate (DNR) forms were used during the pandemic and in particular at the start. There have been long standing concerns about how do not resuscitate decisions are made and these were undoubtedly exacerbated by the pandemic. Given the numerous stories of do not resuscitate decisions and ‘ceilings of treatment’ being imposed in ways that appear to show widespread violations of human rights, for example through lack of information and concerns of blanket decision making, this must be fully and openly investigated.”

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Sally Moore

Sally Moore

Head of the firm's personal injury department. Consistently ranked as one of the UK's leading serious injury lawyers, specialising in spinal and brain injury claims

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Suzanne White

Suzanne White

Suzanne White is head of the medical negligence team and has specialised in this area of law since qualifying in 1999

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Merry Varney
Court of Protection Inquests

Merry Varney

Merry is a partner in the human rights department and head of the Leigh Day inquest group