The UK carried out Exercise Cygnus – a pandemic drill – in 2016, and it highlighted all the issues we have seen this year, though the conclusions have never been made public. The Guardian has published a document labelled as the final version of the report and it does not make reassuring reading.
Conclusions from the report:
- There is no useful strategy in place, nor is there a useful implementation plan for what strategy there is
- The public reaction has not been considered
- Ethical aspects of decision making have not been considered
- It’s recognised that capacity is inadequate and one area where it is lacking is in subject matter experts
Lessons ‘LEARNED’ from the exercise:
- Organisations should ensure their Emergency Preparedness Resilience and Response training and exercising is consistent with best practice.
- Planning should be considered a multi agency responsibility. Specialist advice from all stakeholders needs to be available. Sector specific advice should be scaled up during a pandemic.
- During a reasonable worst case pandemic responders will struggle to maintain a response using the existing framework
- Meetings between the health ministers of the 4 nations should be considered best practice
- Consideration is needed of population based triage
- Work is required to consider surge arrangements. An NHS plan is being developed. Service plans need to be modelled for health, social care, and community support. A communications plan is needed. A clinical and ethical plan needs to be agreed. Mitigation plans are needed to ensure flexibility. Buy in is needed from those who will actually implement these plans.
- Strategy is needed for the use of antivirals – less relevant since there isn’t one for COVID
- Staff absence should be considered
- Health messaging at the national level was not effective. Procedures for getting the message out should be re-enforced (sic) and practiced. Local messaging was more effective.
- National attitudes to use of social media render their use of it ineffective
- Messaging needs to be consistent, avoid jargon, and consider that people want to make their own decisions. Trust in the message source is important
- Consideration needs to be made to using the voluntary sector
- There’s a need for a cross government group to make the response process effective
- The impact of school closures needs to be considered
- Overseas nationals should be considered
- MoD involvement should be considered
- Process for providing and presenting data to decision makers should be considered
- Social care and surge capacity should be considered
- Expansion of social care real estate and staffing capacity should be considered
- Thought should be given to using the capacity of the voluntary sector
- Capacity for managing excess deaths should be considered
- Work is needed to develop contingency plans and processes for prisons
- Future guidance and plans need to consider the potential response of the public
To all of the above unlearned lessons, the DeliveryDemon says NSS, all basic planning requirements. Such a shame that we have had generations of politicians who failed to consider that their job includes managing the country to the benefit of its population. Can there be any excuse for ignoring such a telling report? Maybe perhaps the astonishing claim made late in the document – ‘The healthcare framework to respond to a pandemic is robust’. Along with the minor bureaucrapic qualification that people need to be briefed of the plans for a similar exercise – seriously, the assumption for a disaster scenario is that there will be time for lots of cosy meetings.
We have seen the theory come up against reality. Will that make our politicians and bureaucraps treat disaster planning as something other than a fun exercise and a source of PR?