Labor Party Urges British Government To Publish Results Of Pandemic Exercise 2016 | News from the world


The Labor party called on ministers to publish the suppressed conclusions of a 2016 intergovernmental pandemic exercise, which specifically predicted that the NHS would be plunged into crisis by an infectious and deadly disease.

Called Exercise Cygnus, this large-scale exercise took place in October 2016, but its conclusions were never made public, even if they highlighted shortages of intensive care beds, vital equipment and even mortuary space.

Labor Health spokesperson Jon Ashworth accused the ministers of not properly preparing the NHS for the coronavirus crisis, despite the exercise three years ago.

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“Ministers seriously question what lessons have been learned from the Cygnus pandemic exercise, which can only be answered by publishing its findings and the actions taken,” said Ashworth.

The Labor leader added: “We entered this crisis without enough staff or beds. We have long warned about the capacity of intensive care beds and the pressures on the NHS after years of financial hardship. “

There are only a few references to Cygnus in public documents, although in December of the same year Dame Sally Davies, then chief doctor of England, said that this suggested that health services should have struggling to cope.

“We just did a three-day flu exercise in the UK during a pandemic that killed many people. It became clear that we could not cope with excess bodies, for example. It becomes very worrisome for deaths, and what it will do for society as you start to get all these deaths, [including] economic impact, “said Davies at the time.

Ministers accused of being slow to assess the threat of coronavirus, although at the time of the exercise, pandemic influenza was recognized by the government as the most serious emergency threat to which the United Kingdom should face.

Although reports first surfaced that a new infectious disease had emerged in Wuhan, China earlier this year, it was not until deadly tension had spread to northern Italy in mid-March that crisis measures began to be implemented in the United Kingdom.

In the days that followed, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, appealed to the private sector to build more ventilators, while attempts were made to increase the testing capacity of the UK. Boris Johnson announced a lockout on March 24, under which all non-essential workers were asked to stay at home.

Cygnus was put in a serious pandemic for seven weeks and was designed to test the response of the NHS when its service was overwhelmed and the workforce was exhausted because they too fell ill.

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A weekend report in the Sunday Telegraph said that Cygnus had identified that the NHS would need thousands of additional intensive care beds during a pandemic, that doctors should start screening patients, helping only those who had better chances of survival, and that there would be a shortage of masks and other protective equipment available to front-line staff.

A document from the NHS England board appeared to acknowledge that the exercise had revealed critical gaps, concluding: “Plans are currently being revised to incorporate the lessons of this exercise and ensure our continued preparation for future outbreaks of pandemic influenza. “

Phillip Lee, a former Conservative MP who then defected to the LibDems, said earlier this week that he participated in exercise 2016 when he was assistant minister at the Ministry of Justice. “The ministers had to decide what to do as the overwhelming scale of the pandemic became apparent,” he wrote.

But the former MP – who trained as a doctor – said he thought the opportunity to properly prepare for a pandemic had been missed. “Serious questions must be asked of the ministers and officials responsible for following up on the conclusions of this 2016 exercise. Who was responsible for preparing us for a pandemic (what we knew to be a major risk), and what is it went wrong? “

The health ministry said it had learned from Exercise Cygnus, but it would not accept to publish the document or say what the lessons were. “As the public might expect, we are regularly testing our pandemic plans, and what we have learned from previous exercises has helped us respond quickly to Covid-19,” said a spokesperson.


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