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Commentary

ICPEM Annual Conference Part 3

Stuart Hosking-Durn MEPS – the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of healthcare and what does the future hold. This was a brilliant talk, candid, brave and bold. Stuart Hosking-Durn MEPS is an incredible presenter, engaging and thought provoking and not afraid to challenge the status quo. Post Covid we have had a major influx in resourcing in #EPRR. The pandemic showed us, we were woefully unprepared in every way, as a society for a hazard of that magnitude. That all our plans and planning assumptions, were very quickly no longer fit for purpose. That the speed, scope and scale of the hazard and its impacts had not been truly imagined or conceptualized. So, my question here is what have we learned from this?


This makes me think to the following week conference by the Resilience Association – thinking the unthinkable by Nik Gowing, based on the 2018 Book by Chris Langdon and Nik Gowing and the Thinking the Unthinkable project in started in 2014. Are we really thinking big enough, in terms of speed, scope, scale, complexity, intensity, severity and compounding and cascading events. Most of us who do work on the basis of critical cascade thinking and existential risk can hand on heart say no. The planning assumptions are not up to par, for the risk we face - today, tomorrow and into the future. That we are, and continue to be woefully underprepared, under-resourced, under-capacity, under-capability, and catastrophically un-resilient owing to ongoing strategic neglect. Stuart Hosking-Durn MEPS used multiple examples to point out: That the things we plan for, are in fact not the things we respond to. Very quickly intelligence is out of date, the scenario was wrong, or presents itself entirely differently. Until the risk is realized you don’t know what you’re dealing with. The key is agility – something our current processes and systems lack. So how can we prepare, how can we measure, monitor priorities, treat and manage risk effectively? Well in fact the House of Lords Special Select Committee – preparing for extreme risk report set out the answer quite well, across all levels. The case has long been made for agility through all-hazard planning. Scenario based approaches, wargaming and a playbook of control measures. But as the golden missing piece as Stuart and subsequent others point out from discussion - highly robust stress testing, testing to fail, testing to learn develop and improve. Testing the systems and processes effectively. But instead, we have a conveyor belt of plans and self-certifying exercises. Stuart Hosking-Durn MEPS’s talk was impactful. It was constructive and effectively relayed the reality of complexity and critical cascades. One which we can all clearly see how the wicked problems of supply chains and infrastructure bring the ‘unlikely’ and 'unthinkable' rapidly into reality.

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