Leaders of the UK’s medical, nursing and public health professions are urging the government to set up an urgent review to prepare for a second wave of Covid-19.

In an open letter to the leaders of all the UK's political parties published by The BMJ, they warn that while the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, “the available evidence indicates that local flare ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk.” 

They call for a cross-party, rapid review that is forward-looking, practical, responsive to what the public at large want to see happen, and focused on evaluating national preparedness in the lead up to winter, with the aim of saving lives.   

“We believe that such a review is crucial and needs to happen soon if the public is to have confidence that the virus can be contained,” they write.

Signatories include Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Anne Marie Rafferty, president of the Royal College of Nursing, Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the Council of the British Medical Association, Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of The Lancet, and Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief of The BMJ.

They stress that the review should not be about looking back or attributing blame and should not require primary legislation or major organisational change.

Addressing the disproportionate burden on BAME individuals

“We are not wedded to any particular design of inquiry or review,” they add, but it should be “quick, broad, ambitious, able to command widespread public and stakeholder trust, and needs to happen now.”

It should also focus on those areas of weakness where action is needed urgently to prevent further loss of life and restore the economy as fully and as quickly as possible. These include involving existing regional and local structures, addressing the disproportionate burden on BAME individuals and communities, and ensuring ongoing international collaboration.

“As stakeholders and leaders of the UK’s medical, nursing and public health professions, we urge you to establish such a review,” they write. “We think there’s a strong case for an immediate assessment of national preparedness, with the first results available no later than August, and that all its work should be completed by the end of October.”

They conclude: “We don’t underestimate the complexities of establishing this in the required timeframe. We stand by ready to help in whatever way we can.”