The UK COVID-19 Inquiry - The door is open to applications for Module 3

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry (“the Inquiry”) opened its third Module on 8 November 2022, along with the application process for Core Participant (“CP”) status. Module 3 will consider the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the healthcare sector in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Chair to the Inquiry Baroness Heather Hallett (“the Chair”), outlined that “Module 3 will investigate and analyse the healthcare decisions made during the pandemic, the reasons for them and their impact, so that lessons can be learned, and recommendations can be made for the future”.  

Module 3 will include an examination on how the government and the public responded to the pandemic, the capacity of the healthcare sector in responding to the pandemic and how capacity levels changed over time. Module 3 will also explore the consequences for healthcare, including the impact on systems and services, patients, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff. 

The Inquiry team, which is led by the Chair and supported by Lead Counsel Hugo Keith KC and his legal team, have published the provisional scope of Module 3 which lists 12 key areas for investigation. In summary, the scope will encompass:

  1. The impact of Covid-19 on people’s experience of healthcare.
  2. Core decision-making and leadership within healthcare systems during the pandemic.
  3. Staffing levels and critical care capacity, the establishment and use of Nightingale hospitals and the use of private hospitals.
  4. Emergency services, GP surgeries and hospitals and cross-sectional co-operation between services.
  5. Healthcare provision and treatment for patients with Covid-19 (including the allocation of staff and resources and the impact on those requiring care for reasons other than Covid-19, i.e., delays in treatment and waiting lists).
  6. Decision-making about the nature of healthcare to be provided for patients with Covid-19.
  7. The impact of the pandemic on healthcare staff (including their availability).
  8. Preventing the spread of Covid-19 within healthcare settings.
  9. Communication with patients with Covid-19 and their loved ones about patients’ condition and treatment.
  10. Deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  11. Shielding and the impact on the clinically vulnerable.
  12. Characterisation and identification of Post-Covid Condition (including the condition referred to as long Covid) and its diagnosis and treatment.

The provisional scope of Module 3 is purposely broad and will require involvement from a range of individuals and organisations spanning across, or associated with, the healthcare sector.

No dates have been published by the Inquiry team as to when the hearings will take place for Module 3, although we anticipate preliminary hearings will commence early next year given the opening submissions for Modules 1 and 2 held in late October / early November.  

Getting involved in Module 3

For those wanting to formally participate in the Inquiry, you should consider whether an application to be a CP is appropriate. The application deadline for CP status in respect of Module 3 is 5 December 2022 at 5pm. The Inquiry team have produced a CP protocol, which provides guidance on the application process, and gives an indication of the type of applications that are likely to be successful. The guidance can be found here: Core Participant protocol.

The Chair has made it clear she intends to run the Inquiry in a streamlined and efficient way, whilst doing justice to its subject matter. As a reminder, for Module 2 the Inquiry received 75 applications for CP status, 39 of which were approved. Potential applicants should therefore consider whether their greatest chances of success in obtaining CP status lie within Module 3 and the healthcare sector, or in future modules which we anticipate to include the business, education, care and public sectors. 

CP status should be considered by organisations or individuals who played a key and significant role in relation to the decisions made by the healthcare sector, were seriously affected by the pandemic, or consider they may be likely to be subject to criticism in Module 3. 

Obtaining CP status may enable organisations and individuals to influence the Inquiry’s determinations as regards their role during the pandemic and ensure that the Inquiry has before it the evidence which is needed to ensure that the Inquiry fulfils the important public duty it has been trusted to undertake.  

CPs have participation rights above those afforded to witnesses. Specifically, they benefit from receiving document disclosure; being legally represented throughout proceedings; having the ability to make legal submissions; suggesting questions to be asked of witnesses; and receiving advance notice of the Inquiry’s report.

If an application for CP status is unsuccessful, you could be involved as a provider of evidence without CP status. However, this does not have the same advantages as a CP. The only realistic opportunity for engagement with the Inquiry (aside from the provision of evidence) for a non-CP would be through the consultations arranged by the Chair. 

A recent consultation exercise opened on 16 November 2022. This is the first step to an overarching “listening exercise” where people can anonymously share how the pandemic impacted their lives, via completing an online form. This comes without the formality of giving evidence or attending a public hearing. 

The Inquiry team have announced that other options for sharing will be made available over the coming months. Each will have an impact in shaping the ultimate findings of the Inquiry.

Next steps

If you or your organisation wishes to be a CP for Module 3 of the Inquiry, then you need to make your application by 5th December and carefully follow the Inquiry Guidance as to how to make an application.

If you or your organisation wish to participate as a provider of evidence without CP status, consider completing the online form which can be found here: Share Your Experience.

Shoosmiths can support and represent you or your organisation at any stage of the Inquiry. Our Inquests and Inquiries team has significant experience of acting in a number of high-profile Inquiries and Inquests, including the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Croydon Tram Crash Inquest and the Manchester Arena Inquiry. 

Shoosmiths will continue to provide regular updates on their Covid-19 Inquiry Hub which includes previous articles, webinars and podcasts.




This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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