The country should learn from its mistakes and be ready to learn lessons from overseas the next time a novel pandemic threatens the world, according to members of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.
The college’s proposals come from a group of public health doctors and epidemiologists who are members of the college. A Holyrood committee is due to take evidence today on preparations for the pandemic.
The doctors say that Scotland over-relied on planning for a flu pandemic, assuming that the population would gain immunity and “normal life would move on.” Their concerns include the early implementation of shielding, especially for those in care homes together with steps to protect health care staff.
College vice-president Dr Susan Pound said: “While we acknowledge that planning was done from government level down, we think that it would have been helpful to have focused more on wider public health and the health and social care system as a whole, rather than concentrating so heavily on secondary care and the NHS.
“The heavy focus on secondary care and the NHS was a factor in the inadequate response to protecting care home residents and staff.We are concerned that the MERS and SARS outbreaks were seen in the UK as being largely confined to countries in Asia, resulting in a view that an epidemic originating in Asia would be highly unlikely to ever cause an outbreak in the UK. This affected the UK’s level of preparedness. ”
She added: “During pandemics, healthcare workers must be protected with the best available PPE, social distancing for respiratory diseases, and quick and effective antigen testing.”