People have a right to know the government mistakes that led to the highest mortality rate in Europe


Ambulances outside the Royal London hospital, 13 February 2021.
Ambulances outside the Royal London hospital, 13 February 2021. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

When coronavirus first entered the UK, the country was on the back foot and ill-prepared. The NHS was already facing record waiting times for operations, cancer treatments and GP appointments. Successive cuts to mental and social care, and severe workforce shortages, had left health services exposed and unable to properly function in normal times, let alone during a pandemic.

As a result, the NHS was forced to cease routine services to treat the overwhelming surge of Covid-19 patients. Wards were repurposed for critical care and NHS staff were rapidly redeployed. There were around 2.5m fewer first outpatient appointments and 280,000 fewer urgent cancer referrals between April and June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Fewer than half the expected number of operations were completed, creating a backlog of care and a current record-high waiting list of 4.6 million, with more than 220,000 patients now waiting more than a year for non-Covid treatments.