Lord David Owen, a medical doctor by training and a former Minister of Health, writes a personal analysis of the UK’s Covid-19 pandemic

Latest update 20 October 2020 following receipt of positive news of a new treatment. Read the Minister’s letter here.  

Regards safety of using UK plasma in fractionation vis-a-vis vCJD: a technical paper drawn from French experience is attached here. The ban on UK plasma is under review with an outcome expected late autumn.

Updated 16 July 2020 following PM’s agreement to hold an independent Covid-19 inquiry.

First posted 28 June 2020

Read the full analysis here: Lord Owen: the UK’s Covid-19 pandemic

“When all the new modelling predictions on death rates had been absorbed the lockdown was announced on 23 March. But the national lockdown was never a policy. It was a defeat for the UK’s state of readiness and that of some other countries.  It must not become an accepted wisdom that it will ever be used again. It was a huge price for our unpreparedness for a virus like Covid-19. The tragedy was there were other alternatives to adopt and open to us from December 2016. There will be other virulent viruses and if we face a second wave of Covid-19 local lockdowns should be considered first, not another nationwide one. Indeed, I would rule it out now. The economic cost of another national lockdown is a burden too costly to bear.

“We may have to face again a rise in death rates but this time much better equipped and far more knowledgeable in our ability to treat Covid-19 so a similar high death rate is very unlikely.

“Staggered hours and days for work to prevent the cheek-by-jowl inner city transport system are urgent and essential, not just now but also for the future. It was a public health scandal that such overcrowding was ever tolerated. Similarly, we must not tolerate any longer the low priority of the past for public health and that is why the present design of separation within the NHS has been proven not to work. Health is a seamless robe, fragmentation menaces health provision.

“There is one treatment option which the Government has still to decide on.  That is to manufacture and trial as an immunoglobulin concentrated Covid-19 antibodies for injection. A well-known manufacturing process of proven medical worth exists and has been used for many earlier viruses prior to successful vaccination programmes.  [A more detailed background note on this is available as an Annex, here.]


“The deepest lesson to learn from the crisis, however, is that no amount of dedication from NHS staff can correct historic neglect and that the current marketised NHS has been a disaster for preventive health…

“Not surprisingly, either, it has been no friend of resilience or sustainability. Nor of mental health.  Marketisation has also proven to be in procurement inefficient and hugely costly. Shortages of Personal Protection Equipment in hospitals and care homes was an avoidable disaster and stocks must never be allowed ever again to deteriorate in situ beyond use.

“The NHS must never again be forced to join a ruthless global auction for both PPE and tests.   This has been addressed to a certain extent as we are told 2 billion pieces of equipment are ready for any future use. But the reason behind this huge error was also the fragmentation of responsibility…..”

Read the full analysis here: Lord Owen: the UK’s Covid-19 pandemic