People across the UK have been urged to share their experiences of how the coronavirus pandemic affected them to help shape the Covid-19 Inquiry’s recommendations.

Every Story Matters aims to aid understanding of the full picture of what happened and what more needs to be done to ensure the UK is better prepared in the future, inquiry chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett said.

Almost 6,000 people have already shared their stories, the inquiry team said, and 40 organisations including homelessness charities, older people’s groups and the Royal College of Midwives are helping to reach as many people as possible to ensure experiences shared are representative of the UK population.

People are being invited to fill in an online form while paper forms and a telephone line will be available later this year.

Inquiry team members will also be travelling around the UK to hear stories from people in-person at community events.

Lady Hallett said: “The pandemic affected every single person in the UK and, in many cases, continues to have a lasting impact on lives. Yet every experience is unique.

“By sharing the personal impact the pandemic had on you, your life and your loved ones, you can help me and the inquiry’s legal team to shape my recommendations so that the UK is better prepared in the future.

“The scale of the pandemic was unprecedented, but no-one’s story is the same as yours, so please help me understand the full picture by sharing your story. Every single story will matter.”

The inquiry said the stories will give evidence of the human impact of the pandemic on the UK population, by allowing an opportunity for those affected to share their experiences “without the formality of giving evidence or attending a public hearing”.

Anna-Louise Marsh-Rees, from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru (Wales) group, said: “It is our hope that these interactions will assist the chair of the inquiry, gain a wider knowledge of the impact of Covid-19 on Welsh communities, and ultimately influence her final recommendations.”

Shared stories will be anonymised and will contribute to themed reports to be submitted to each of the inquiry’s relevant investigation strands as evidence.

The Every Story Matters programme will remain open as the inquiry proceeds and a final report will be submitted into evidence “to make sure every story matters”, the inquiry team said.

Various groups including Age UK, learning disability charity Mencap, Hospice UK and Kidney Care UK said they would encourage people who feel able to do so to share their stories.

Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The experiences of midwives, maternity support workers, student midwives and midwifery educators will be crucial to gaining a better understanding of how the pandemic impacted on their working lives, and ultimately care for women, babies and families.

“I encourage as many as possible to respond to the listening exercise, because your stories matter, and sharing what you lived and worked through will help to change things for the better should we ever face a similar situation in the future.”