Rather than changing nursing, she believes that the pandemic has simply “shone a great light” on what it is that nurses have always done.

But what will change is the way that we are ready for threats such as this in the future, Dame Christine said.

“There has always been pandemic planning but it was largely related to flu. You were planning for something you knew and you knew that some people would have immunity to it. It is quite difficult to plan for something where the whole world is not immune and it is so contagious,” said Dame Christine, who in her tenure as chief nurse led the fight against MRSA.

Looking back she said that there had been “probably not enough” pandemic planning. “It is the same as the dilemma we are facing now about lifting restrictions. There is the dilemma about how do you go about protecting people’s health, particularly the most vulnerable, and how do we not let our economy go down the pan and there isn’t the perfect answer to that.

“Of course there is pandemic planning but you could say in hindsight well did we have, and clearly we didn’t, have enough public health capacity particularly on the testing side, to deal with this.

“The issue then is do you build up capacity that you are not using in case it happens. I am sure what will come out of this is what do we need to have in our back pocket in case this happens.

“The countries that have coped best of course are interestingly the countries that were very shocked by Sars or Mers, countries like Singapore and Korea where 10 or 15 years ago they had a shot across the bows.

“But it has never quite reached us so I think that has been in the balance of decision making.

“Certainly in the western world we have led a very privileged life in terms of facing diseases that have threatened to wipe us out no matter what we do that hasn’t come in our lifetime.

“I think people just think that was in the past we have a medicine for this, something for that. Scientists and some public health people have been saying something could come our way, but I guess they too couldn’t say when it was going to come.

“So I guess we all lived in a world where we thought we would be alright. I am sure that there are people who will say that we should have done more.”

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