Coronavirus: lessons learned to date Contents

1Our joint inquiry

1.Since March 2020 the Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee have been holding separate inquiries examining the Government’s response to the covid-19 pandemic. These inquiries began as covid-19 reached the UK and have continued throughout the first wave of the pandemic and beyond, examining the response to the pandemic as it happened. In October 2020, the two Committees launched a joint inquiry, Coronavirus: lessons learnt, to consider several key issues that emerged during the first wave of the pandemic and identify what lessons need to be learnt.9

2.The majority of our 11 oral evidence sessions were held between October and December 2020, with further sessions held in January, May and June 2021. Our joint inquiry heard from over 50 individuals, including the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, the then Minister of State for Care, Helen Whately MP, the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, and the then Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, and experts on each of our key areas of inquiry. We published over 100 pieces of written evidence from individuals and organisations.

3.Our two Committees have also gathered a significant body of evidence through our own inquiries into covid-19 and its impacts.10 This includes over 400 written submissions across two inquiries11 and oral evidence sessions, including several sessions held during and after the second peak of the pandemic. Where relevant we have drawn on existing evidence from our individual Committee inquiries in this joint Report.

4.As a result, while most of our evidence, conclusions and recommendations relate to the first wave of the pandemic in the spring and summer of 2020, we continued to gather evidence into the second wave of the pandemic and beyond and our conclusions are reached in light of this new evidence where relevant.

Aims of this Report

5.Our joint inquiry was established in October 2020 with the aim of providing a fuller evaluation of the Government’s handling of the covid-19 pandemic that covered the remits of both Committees (Health and Social Care and Science and Technology), building on the evidence each Committee had already received and utilising our areas of focus.

6.The purpose of this Report is not to apportion blame, but we do seek to provide an early assessment of the key decisions, structures and underlying factors which contributed to the extent of the pandemic’s impact in the UK. In doing so, we have focused on six key areas:

7.Many of our recommendations are intended to inform future pandemic and other emergency responses, but there are also several recommendations intended to safeguard the future of our vital public services, and recommendations that will benefit the wider health of the nation.

8.We believe that our recommendations can provide immediate benefit, both to the continued Government response to the covid-19 pandemic, and to the country’s recovery from covid-19. However, we are clear that our conclusions cannot be the last word on the covid-19 pandemic, or the Government’s handling of it. We note the Prime Minister’s announcement to launch a full public inquiry during this parliamentary session.12 Our findings, and all of the evidence we have gathered, will be available to the public inquiry.


9.This Report is predominantly focused on the response to the pandemic in England, and in referring to the Government’s response we generally refer to the interventions that were adopted in England. While there has often been significant overlap in the policies adopted by the UK Government and the devolved administrations, health and public health are devolved matters and as the pandemic has progressed there has been increasing divergence in response. Where relevant, we highlight similarities and differences between responses across the UK, but our recommendations relate only to the UK Government.

9 The terms of reference for our inquiry are published on our websites:

10 For example, see: Health and Social Care Committee, Second Report of Session 2019–21, Delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond, HC 320; Science and Technology Committee, First Report of Session 2019–21, The UK response to covid-19: use of scientific advice, HC 136; and Health and Social Care Committee, Second Report of Session 2021–22, Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care, HC 22

12 HC Deb, 12 May 2021, col 137 [Commons Chamber]

Published: 12 October 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement