Covid-19: Bereaved feel ‘swept under carpet’

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Bereaved families who lost loved ones to Covid-19 feel they are being “swept under the carpet” by the Government, MPs have heard.

Grieving family members said they have written three times to the Prime Minister asking to meet and share their experiences.

But they told the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus officials were unable to meet “due to the current pandemic”.

Jo Goodman, who lost her father Stuart after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 aged 72, from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “We wrote to the Prime Minister three times beginning on June 11, asking him to meet with bereaved families and also to Matt Hancock, calling for a public inquiry and calling for them to meet with us and hear our experiences.

“At first we only received a two-line acknowledgement and eventually a letter saying they are unable to meet with us due to the current pandemic.

“The fact that they’re able to meet with cycling groups and other groups, it feels as though we are being swept under the carpet.

“We really do want to ensure that other people don’t go through this and we think it is really important that bereaved families’ voices are heard.”

Charlie Williams, another member the group which represents 1,450 families, told MPs: “I last saw my father via video.

“We have so many traumatic stories within our group and none of us are getting support from the Government as bereaved families whatsoever. We are trying to help and support each other.

“We reached out to the Government several times by writing letters. He has pretty much ignored us. We haven’t even received a condolence from our Government. We received a two-line reply acknowledging our letter with no condolences. We find this shocking.

“We have got so much information to give that could save lives before the second wave and we hope the Government will listen to us.”

Ms Goodman added: “It’s hugely traumatic and there seems to be very little support available. There is also the sense that the Government doesn’t necessarily want to engage with bereaved families and the scale of loss that has been experienced as a country because it feels like that would be acknowledging that we do have a huge death toll and there are a huge number of people struggling.”

Kathryn de Prudhoe, another member of the group who lost her father, said that people cannot access their usual support networks while Hannah Brady, who also lost her father, said that specific bereavement services were needed “urgently”.

Ms Brady told MPs that because she was trying to raise awareness she was subject to online abuse.

The 24-year-old from Wigan, whose father had no underlying health conditions and was just 55 when he died, said that the Government’s response to the pandemic was “sluggish”.

“I am subjecting myself to online abuse and trolling – that ‘Covid’s a hoax’ ‘Covid’s a lie’ and ‘that I should be hanged for questioning our Government’ – so that bereaved families are no longer being ignored.

“We have a wealth of insight into the nightmare of contracting, suffering with, dying from and grieving because of Covid.

“Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice have been willing to share our stories and experience for months but until today in this meeting we have been actively ignored by those who can listen and make a difference.”

The virtual meeting of the APPG heard harrowing stories from bereaved family members as well as from people who are still struggling with symptoms from so-called Long Covid.

Previously fit people, who are members of a Long Covid Support Group on Facebook with almost 15,000 members, told MPs how their lives had been turned upside down by a horde of symptoms.

Claire Hastie described how she used to cycle 13 miles to work but can no longer walk 13 metres and is now largely confined to a wheelchair with her children providing much of her care.

Dr Jake Suett, a staff grade doctor in anaesthetics and intensive care medicine, said: “I was doing 12-hour shifts in ICU. It’s a high-pressure situation, you have to be able to be active. I was going to the gym three times a week regularly.

“And now a flight of stairs or the food shop is about what I can manage before I have to stop… if I’m on my feet then shortness of breath comes back, chest pain comes back.”

People living with long-term symptoms of the disease described how some doctors do not know how to treat them and called for research into the long-term effects, not just among those who were admitted to hospital, but also for those who dealt with their symptoms outside of hospital.

A Government spokesperson said: “This has been an unprecedented global outbreak and every death from the virus is a tragedy

“The Government has acted to protect lives, incomes and the most vulnerable in our society. In the future there will be an opportunity for us to look back and learn some profound lessons. But at the moment, the most important thing to do is to focus on responding to the current situation.”

Liberal Democrat MP and the chairwoman of the APPG on coronavirus, Layla Moran, said: “It is unacceptable that bereaved families have been met with such a wall of indifference from Number 10. The Prime Minister must agree to listen to families who have lost loved ones to coronavirus and take their concerns on board.

“We also need greater support for bereaved families and those living with long-term symptoms of Covid. This cross-party inquiry will continue to hear from those impacted by this terrible disease, so we can put pressure on the Government, learn lessons and save lives.”

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