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Scottish government appoints Covid inquiry chair

The Scottish government has appointed a chair for the public inquiry into its handling of Covid-19.

Lady Poole QC, Senator of the College of Justice of Scotland, will lead the probe, which will identify lessons to be learned and recommendations for reform “as soon as practicable,” deputy first minister John Swinney told MSPs.

According to the inquiry’s terms of reference it will investigate several strategic areas, including pandemic planning and exercises carried out by the Scottish government; the decision to lockdown and to apply other restrictions; and the delivery of testing systems, outbreak management and self isolation.

The inquiry will cover the period from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2022, although it will also consider prior pandemic planning.

Lady Poole QC will also be tasked with examining the design and delivery of the Scottish government’s vaccination strategy; the supply, distribution and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and the requirement for shielding and associated assistance programmes, provided or supported by public agencies.

Decision-making on care and nursing homes will also be scrutinised, in particular the transfer of residents to or from homes; treatment and care of residents; restrictions on visiting; infection prevention and control: inspections: and the delivery of end of life care and the use of ‘do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ decisions (DNACPR).

The Covid inquiry will also assess the Scottish government’s provision of healthcare services, including the management and support of staff, and the effectiveness of its delivery of welfare assistance programmes, education and financial support for businesses.

The new chair will be able to suggest adjustments to the inquiry’s current terms of reference, which were informed by public engagement, including taking the remit of the UK-wide Covid-19 inquiry into account.

Julian Diaz-Rainey, public inquiries expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “There has been a lot of activity recently, with the public inquiry in Scotland announcing its terms of reference, and the prime minister announcing that Rt Hon Baroness Heather Hallett DBE will lead the UK Covid public inquiry due to start in Spring 2022.”

He added: “The Scottish terms of reference – what the inquiry will consider – are exactly what we’d expect to see, with issues such as the decision to lockdown, the supply and distribution of PPE, and care in nursing homes all areas that will be dealt with.”

“The terms of reference for the public inquiry led by Baroness Hallett are likely to be very similar when they’re announced,” he said.

Lady Poole QC will now begin the process of appointing staff so the inquiry can begin considering evidence as soon as possible.

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