Coronavirus (246) Lancet - Offline: COVID-19 and the NHS “a national scandal”

27 March, 2020

Citation and selected extracts from Richard Horton's (Editor-in-Chief) latest Offline column.

CITATION: Comment| volume 395, issue 10229, p1022, march 28, 2020

Offline: COVID-19 and the NHS—“a national scandal”

Richard Horton

Published: March 28, 2020


'The UK Government's Contain–Delay–Mitigate–Research strategy failed. It failed, in part, because ministers didn't follow WHO's advice to “test, test, test” every suspected case. They didn't isolate and quarantine. They didn't contact trace. These basic principles of public health and infectious disease control were ignored, for reasons that remain opaque...

I asked NHS workers to contact me with their experiences. Their messages have been as distressing as they have been horrifying. “It's terrifying for staff at the moment. Still no access to personal protective equipment [PPE] or testing.” ... “There's been no guidelines, it's chaos.” ... “We are literally making it up as we go along.” ...

The Chief Executive Officer of the NHS in England, and the Chief Scientific Adviser [had] a duty to immediately put the NHS and British public on high alert. February should have been used to expand coronavirus testing capacity, ensure the distribution of WHO-approved PPE, and establish training programmes and guidelines to protect NHS staff. They didn't take any of those actions. The result has been chaos and panic across the NHS. Patients will die unnecessarily. NHS staff will die unnecessarily. It is, indeed, as one health worker wrote last week, “a national scandal”. The gravity of that scandal has yet to be understood.'


Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: