What should the Care Sector know about Module 6 of the Covid-19 Inquiry?

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Module 6 of the UK’s Covid-19 Public Inquiry opened on 12 December 2023, with public hearings set to begin in Spring 2025. This article explores what Module 6 will examine and explains how and why members of the Care Sector may want to become involved.

What is the UK Covid-19 Inquiry?

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry is the independent public inquiry set up by the UK Government to examine the UK’s preparedness and response to the pandemic and importantly to ensure that lessons are learned for the future. 

The Inquiry is split up into various modules, each focusing on different aspects of the pandemic response. Module 6 is set to focus on the Care Sector across the UK. To avoid the benefit of doubt, the Care Sector refers to the publicly and privately funded adult social care sector in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What will Module 6 explore? 

The Care Sector has and continues to play a significant role in both public interest and the Inquiry’s overall investigation. In Module 2, for instance, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP acknowledged the Government’s purported failure to throw “a protective ring” around care homes, which was an area of considerable controversy.

The provisional scope of Module 6 lists the key areas of investigation. Whilst purposely broad, in summary it will cover: 

  1. The unequal impacts of the pandemic on care home residents and their loved ones, as well as experiences of staff working in the Care Sector. 
  2. The consequences of the UK Government and Devolved Administrations’ decision making on the Care Sector at the outset and during the Pandemic. Consideration will be given to the decisions relating to the discharge of patients from hospitals into care homes in the early stages of the pandemic. 
  3. The capacity of the Care Sector and its ability to respond to the pandemic. This will include considering the structure of the Care Sector and elements such as staffing levels and bed capacity immediately prior to the pandemic.
  4. The management of the pandemic in care and residential homes. This will cover an examination of the steps taken in care homes to prevent the spread of the virus. Other elements will also be scrutinised, such as infection prevention and control measures, testing, the availability and adequacy of PPE, restrictions on access by/to healthcare professionals and visits from loved ones.
  5. Infection prevention and control measures for those providing care in the homes, including by unpaid carers.
  6. The use of Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPRs) and how this was communicated with residents and their loved ones about the resident’s condition and treatment.
  7. The changes to the regulatory inspection regimes within the Care Sector, which will presumably include a focus on the approach of the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
  8. Deaths related to Covid-19, including deaths of residents and staff.

If you believe any of the above key areas could potentially relate to you or your organisation, it is important to consider how you may become involved in Module 6.  

How might you be involved in Module 6? 

Typically, you may become involved in Module 6 as a witness or a Core Participant. 

  • Witnesses: The Inquiry has the legal power to require witness evidence from anyone with relevant information to give. Module 6 witnesses are expected to include care providers who provided care services during the pandemic. As a witness, you may be asked to attend the Inquiry’s hearings to provide evidence and documentation relating to the impact of Covid-19 and the response to the pandemic. 
  • Core Participants: As a Core Participant, you will have the benefit of receiving evidence in advance of the hearings, the potential opportunity to make opening or closing statements, and the ability to make representations and suggested lines of questioning to the Inquiry to influence how it might proceed. You can also make submissions on the contents of both the relevant module’s report and the subsequent final report. 

Why might you wish to be a Core Participant? 

An important factor to consider when thinking about applying for Core Participant status is that the Inquiry is a public forum and participants are likely to come under public and press scrutiny. However, it is also an opportunity for you to play an important part in the outcome of the Inquiry. The Inquiry will make findings and recommendations at the end of each Module. This may include praise for, as well as criticisms of, care providers and the relevant decision-makers if these are found to be justified. It is also possible that other litigation (for example, civil claims) may follow as a result. 

Care providers should therefore consider applying for Core Participant status in the Inquiry, given the greater access allowed to the proceedings and the opportunity to influence aspects of the overall outcome of the Inquiry. This could also make it easier to protect your organisation’s reputation.

The window of opportunity to apply to become a Core Participant for Module 6 opened on 12 December 2023 and will remain open until 19 January 2024. The Chair will make the final decision on whether applicants will be granted Core Participant status.

More information on the application process can be found on the official Covid-19 Inquiry website

What should you do now?

If you are interested in taking part in the Inquiry, you should: 

  1. Decide whether you should consider applying for Core Participant status or if you are better suited as a witness (evidence provider); and 
  2. Take steps to reinforce and protect any evidence (both physical and electronic) that may be required. 

Alternatively, if you are considering whether to take part as a collective, now is the time to contact your industry or umbrella organisation as a different avenue to getting involved. 

How can Shoosmiths help?

Shoosmiths can support and represent you at all stages of the Inquiry, whether as a Core Participant or a witness. The Shoosmiths Inquests and Inquiries team has significant experience of acting in several 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. We have also recently hosted a webinar entitled ‘The Covid-19 Public Inquiry - Spotlight on the Care Sector’, which is available at The UK COVID-19 Public Inquiry: Spotlight on the Care Sector - YouTube.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational 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. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.

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