A LAWYER whose firm is representing more than 100 bereaved families and survivors of Covid outbreaks in care homes and workplaces says an inquiry into the pandemic response must be the “widest and most open ever”.

Patrick McGuire, a partner at personal injury law firm Thompsons Solicitors, said “nothing less than” a judge-led inquiry would do, adding that some employers had treated the virus like “some unavoidable occupational hazard”.

Mr McGuire said around 40 per cent of Thompsons' clients are people whose loved ones died after becoming infected in a care home, but 60% are Covid-harmed employees or bereaved relatives of those who caught the virus at work.

He said a “slight majority” of this latter group were in frontline care roles, such as paramedics or hospital workers, but nearly half had been in roles that could have been done from home or where employers made “no attempt at all” to follow safety guidance such as physical distancing.

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Call centres and factories were among the worst offenders, he added.

“In many of the cases we’ve seen, employers have basically rode roughshod over their employees’ health and safety rights,” said Mr McGuire, who has been involved in around half a dozen major public inquiries including probes the Stockline plastics factory explosion and the Penrose inquiry into contaminated blood products.

He added: “So, yes, we want individual care homes looked at, but we also want the industrial response: was the guidance strong enough, was it policed, what was the HSE’s [Health and Safety Executive] role in all of this? - right down to the action of individual employers.”

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It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that an independent public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic will be held in Spring 2022, which will be able “to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral evidence in public under oath”.

The PM said it would put government “under the microscope”, adding that the UK Government would “work closely with the devolved administrations” in setting it up.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said they are awaiting detail on the terms of reference and will then determine “whether the UK-wide inquiry covers all of the issues that need to be covered for Scotland”.

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He stressed that the Scottish Government wants the inquiry to begin gathering evidence before the end of this year, adding: “If the UK Government does not take this forward swiftly, we will determine if a distinct Scottish inquiry is required to meet the needs of families who have been impacted by the pandemic.”

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Mr McGuire said the process must not become “a constitutional football”.

He said: “There has to be absolute clarity and transparency and both governments have to work together to make sure that this is the fullest of public inquiries that turns its gaze fully on the Westminster government, the Holyrood government, and the interaction between the two.

"In the Scottish context we need to be looking at the decisions to release hospital patients with a positive test for Covid into care homes.

"The communication between the government and the care homes in relation to that, globally in terms of policy and for individual patients, because the deaths in Scottish care homes have been nothing less than a national scandal.

"Complete and utter scrutiny of the industry, its regulation, but within that the actions and conduct of individual care homes - all of this has to be looked at, root and branch, because unless we do we'll be left wondering.

"We need the widest, the most open, the most transparent public inquiry in history. Nothing else will do."