A systems analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic response in the United Kingdom - part 1 - the overall context

Slater, D., Hollnagel, E., MacKinnon, R., Sujan, M., Carson-Stevens, A., Ross, A. and Bowie, P. (2022) A systems analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic response in the United Kingdom - part 1 - the overall context. Safety Science, 146, 105525. (doi: 10.1016/j.ssci.2021.105525) (PMID:34658531) (PMCID:PMC8501230)

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Abstract

The most common reaction to suggesting that we could learn valuable lessons from the way the current pandemic has been/ is being handled, is to discourage the attempt; as it is suggested that it can all be done more accurately and authoritatively after the inevitable Public Inquiry (Slater, 2019). On the other hand, a more constructive approach, is to capture and understand the work that was actually done.This would include normal activities, as well as positive adaptations to challenges and failures that may have occurred. Such an approach aimed at improving what worked, rather than blaming people for what went wrong, has the potential to contribute more successfully to controlling the consequences of the current crisis. Such an approach should thus be aimed at detecting and feeding back lessons from emerging and probably unexpected behaviours and helping to design the system to adapt better to counter the effects. The science and discipline of Human Factors (HF) promotes system resilience. This can be defined as an organisation's ability to adjust its functioning before, during or after significant disturbances (such as a pandemic), enabling adaptation and operation under both anticipated and unanticipated circumstances. A “functional” approach methodology enables the identification of where the system and its various interdependent functions (an activity or set of activities that are required to give a certain output), could be improved and strengthened; if not immediately, at least for the future. Along these lines, suggestions for adding key resilience functions are additionally identified and outlined. The application and insights gained from this functional approach to the 2015 MERS-Cov pandemic in South Korea has been seen as contributing substantially to the effective response to the current crisis in that country (Min, submitted for publication). In this paper, we present an overarching framework for a series of projects that are planned to carry out focussed systems-based analysis to generate learning from key aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic response in the United Kingdom.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Systems thinking, COVID 19, complex adaptive systems, FRAM.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bowie, Dr Paul and Ross, Dr Alastair
Authors: Slater, D., Hollnagel, E., MacKinnon, R., Sujan, M., Carson-Stevens, A., Ross, A., and Bowie, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing > Dental School
Journal Name:Safety Science
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0925-7535
ISSN (Online):1879-1042
Published Online:09 October 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Ltd.
First Published:First published in Safety Science 146:105525
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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