The statutory inquiry into the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic will commence in the Spring of 2022 under the Inquiries Act 2005. Within such a public inquiry process, individuals and organisations can be compelled to provide documentation, a witness statement and oral evidence under oath.

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Amanda Pritchard, NHS England and NHS Improvement's (NHSE&I) Chief Operating Officer and NHS Improvement's Chief Executive has written to healthcare leaders asking them to consider four key areas of preparatory action:

  1. ensuring robust and comprehensive records management
  2. embedding systematic approaches to log key leavers, carry out exit processes and retain contact details
  3. considering wellbeing support for staff who may have to provide evidence
  4. appointing a named inquiry lead.

In addition, NHSE&I is issuing a ‘stop notice’ to its own staff to retain all documents and recommends that you do the same within your organisation.  

Capsticks’ view - Key issues to consider now

The urgent next steps you need to take as an organisation are:

  • Decide who is going to lead the response within your organisation and
  • How you are going to capture relevant evidence in your possession to enable you have an accurate time line of events and certainty as to information available at the time decisions were made.

In our experience it is crucial to get ahead of the process, in particular in relation to disclosure obligations. Being involved in a public inquiry or other major investigation can impose a heavy burden on an organisation and on the individuals within it. Whether your organisation becomes a core participant or provides witness evidence, you will be concerned to provide a full and accurate account of relevant events, drawing on contemporaneous evidence wherever possible. The challenges of disclosure can be significant and time-consuming both for individuals and organisations.

How Capsticks can help

Whilst the terms of reference for the Inquiry are not yet known, Capsticks team members have been closely involved in establishing and working in statutory public inquiries and other major investigations for decades. We can not only advise your Board on the Inquiry processes generally but we can also guide you on data collection and storage, and provide support at these early stages. For further information on the services we can provide both now and as the Inquiry process takes shape, please follow this link.

If you have any queries around what's discussed in this article, and the impact on your organisation, please speak to Francis Lyons, Georgia Ford, Adam Hartrick or Tracey Lucas to find out more about how Capsticks can help.