CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

One year on, who will give grieving relatives answers they need?

25 March, 2021

Adam Harkins Sullivan was one of the youngest people to die from Covid-19 aged 28

THE nation was on Tuesday asked to pause for a “day of reflection”, one year on from the first Covid lockdown.

There will be hundreds of grieving relatives in Camden who will be demanding a whole lot more than that.

It is not so much a day of reflection that is required, but some form of full-scale investigation – starting in the coroner’s court.

In the swirling triumphalism surrounding the vaccine rollout, we should not lose focus on the fatal failures that have taken place.

According to the council’s most recent figures, there have so far been 310 Covid-related deaths in Camden.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was one year since Adam Harkins-Sullivan died in UCH. A fit and healthy 28-year-old, the death of the body-builder from Camden Town was at the time shocking as he was thought to be the UK’s youngest victim of the coronavirus.

His family, one year on, still have many unanswered questions about how he died. But they have been told not to expect a coroner’s inquest.

How will they find the answers they need about whether his fatal infection, believed to be “hospital-acquired”, was avoidable?

Hundreds of grieving relatives will also have a grim anniversary looming in the following weeks – and all will have a sense of anger.

Mistakes were made in those chaotic first few weeks, back in March and April 2020. But it is the Government, not the NHS, that should be blamed for them.

Hospitals were by the time of the winter lockdown far better prepared, not only in how to stop the spread of infections on the wards, but also in how to treat Covid patients more effectively.

The overall death rate in Camden, and the number of those dying from Covid during the most recent wave, was far lower than in the first peak.

The Government took too long to see that hospitals would become overwhelmed in March last year. They failed to ensure strict social-distancing measures were put in place in time.

Patients, and hospital staff, died unnecessarily because of PPE supply problems.

The inquest system, despite its many failings, does give individual families a chance to ask specific questions to individuals involved in their care.

In the inquest into the death of Dexter Bristol in 2019, witnesses from the Home Office and Department for Work and Pensions were forced to give evidence. But this was only after a High Court overruled a coroner’s decision not to call them.

The coroner’s court system has proved itself over many years to be toothless in the face of injustice.

Countless times grieving relatives have emerged from the St Pancras court feeling angrier and more confused than when they went in.

An alternative forum is required, something independent and unafraid to point the finger where it is needed.

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