Analysis comment Exclusive

Video: Govt makes false claim NHS staff deaths stats can’t be stated because of families – and tells journalist to use it anyway

There is no legal reason government needs family permission to publish death statistics. Not for first time, it makes claim regardless – and when challenged, tells journalist to use it anyway
Health Secretary Matt Hancock

At the government’s daily coronavirus press conference, Matt Hancock was asked how many NHS staff have died after catching COVID-19 in the fight to save patients.

He threw the question to Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May like a hot potato.

May responded with a line the government has used before to excuse delays in releasing the UK’s total coronavirus deaths – that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to release statistics without the permission of bereaved families.

Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May and Matt Hancock in December

This claim is simply untrue.

Confidentiality laws might require an individual’s permission – or the family’s in the case of a death – before naming a person. But no such permission is needed to add a death to an overall figure.

Unlike other journalists who asked questions during the press conference, the one who posed this question was not allowed a follow-up.

The SKWAWKBOX called the Department of Health media office – which has a long history of ignoring awkward questions – to point out that the government’s claim was false and to ask why it was being made.

And was told to use it anyway:

“This claim is false”. “I think for the time being you should use it anyway.”


There are no confidentiality grounds whatever for the government withholding figures that it admits it has on how many of our NHS heroes have died in the fight against coronavirus – a situation that the Tories’ failure to provide adequate personal protective equipment for weeks now or to test staff for the virus has inevitably worsened.

If the legal reasons are vapour, then the real reasons for misleading the public and hiding the death toll are political.

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  1. Looks like the next order of business will include an amendment to GDPR to legitimise this opaque form of transparency.
    NMC The Code presents the professional standards that nurses, midwives and nursing associates must uphold in order to be registered to practise in the UK. It is structured around four themes – prioritise people, practise effectively, preserve safety and promote professionalism and trust.

  2. Why don’t the press here tear into these guys like they do in the US. Trump has to put up with live questions, and fights for his political life every single day. Why should this lot of jokers get away with handing out crap, while the press mumbles!

    1. Because we are British and defer to the higher ups in society as knowing better than us .
      Let support and clap those in the NHS but lets not acknowledge their unnecessary deaths as nooooo that would be just toooo embarrassing for Boris who is just such a hero for beating CV19 with such resolute fortitude !
      I don’t know about anyone else but this make me want to SCREAM WITH RAGE at what is going on here . I am beginning to understand and grasp really what Aneurin Bevan felt and meant when he stated those famous words .
      Thank GOD for at least a semblance of an alternative news media to get this out , they all need supporting , that means money , not just words in comments columns … if you can
      I ‘ve just signed up to support Double Down News another good alt news stream

  3. They’re probably worried about thousands of us shaming them by running through the Channel Tunnel or paddling dinghys across the Channel to claim refugee status in the EU on the grounds of a serious medical condition not being treated or being persecuted for membership of particular social groups (the poor, anyone who’s not a tory).

  4. I can only imagine that a lasting concern for families of the deceased would be their loved one NOT being included in the official statistics. It is an acknowledgement that they existed, their decease was real, they were counted and they mattered. We went through this when our Mother was knocked down by a car, we wanted her to be included in official road accident statistics, we were told she wouldn’t because she lived a while after, although later dying of the injuries caused by the accident. So yes, the government’s line is nonsense.

    1. Carlene, that aspect hadn’t occurred to me until this minute, but I can see that you’re right – not counting a death is tantamount to dismissing the value of a life.

  5. Believe me, everone will want their deceased relative to be counted in the official figures, whether or not they chose to ‘go public’.

  6. I want to know the numbers of every NHS worker (those whose job has been contracted out included), every porter, cleaner, catering assistant, nurse, healthcare worker, volunteer etc, who looses their life to this virus caught during the course of doing their job. The government is deliberately dodging giving us these figures because of course, it raises questions once again about their, dithering, denial, evasion and criminal recklessness in Febuary and March and even before in failing to try to aquire PPE and ventilators until the end of March., while watching the horrendous daily death toll in Italy. I think we need to draw up a time line of their neglect for the inquest later. It also points to their contempt for these workers, as though their lives dont matter. yet we are all supposed to wish Boris well and a speedy recovery, so he can get back to culling our class.
    A Labour Mayor has had whip withdrawn because she said ‘Boris deserved it’.

  7. Oh, and I just want to say WELL DONE Skwawk, and thanks for all you do.

  8. Yes, you should be a good little parrot and repeat everything we say without question, if you want to be just like kuenssberg.

    Polly want a cracker??

  9. “I don’t have a STRAIGHT answer…”

    They even admitting they’re shit liars. Unreal.

  10. They want us to believe that when they ask the relatives of the deceased ‘do you want your loved one included in the official figures? ‘ the relative might say ‘no’. No one will ever be asked that anyway, that’s not the way they gather the information for statistics. Yet they tell us it’s confidentiality, yet when it suits them, they can flog your medical records off to insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies – ‘anonymised’of course, untill you get bombarded with mail from quacks and medical appliance companies specifically referring to your medical procedure, as did one Labour MP on the Health Select Committee.

  11. Take a look at the estimates produced by the IHME, an institute of the University of Washington that specialises in medical data. It has predictions for European Countries and US states. The UK is the least prepared health service of any of these.

    They estimate that the real daily death rate is around 1800 currently reaching a peak of 3000 a day in about a week’s time. They also show that the NHS has only 15% of the beds necessary to treat cases that would normally be hospitalised in such an epidemic.

  12. What is shocking is how at every level they have people willing to lie for them, Nursing, Dept of Health, Public Health, Health Trusts
    They are quite miraculously making MSM and toilet papers blush with embarrassment
    Bet you a pound to a penny if you asked the thick fuckers who voted for them if No Deal Brexit might make matters worse, the answer would be No, just get it done
    Meanwhile Keir hope’s people will want us to rejoin as things get worse
    As financial pandemic rips through the economy and no one is counting the cost
    Welcome to Dystopia by the sea

    1. “What is shocking is how at every level they have people willing to lie for them, Nursing, Dept of Health, Public Health, Health Trusts”

      Not when you remember the neoliberal ‘privatise the world’ agenda that has all but fully privatised NHS, splitting it into so called Trusts and with CCGs sending out diktats to GPs etc. etc. NHS is now a corporate model and structures. People are at risk of losing their jobs if they don’t toe the corporate line and now work in top down bureaucratic profit orientated structures. NHS has prosecuted whistle blowing doctors ruining their careers. Millions spent silencing whistleblowers for years.
      I know Pilger’s film is up for free viewing release and there’s Dr Bob Gill’s film ‘The Great NHS Heist’ I recommend people get a refresher of what’s been going on? Share with anyone who hasn’t seen it. I’ve posted this link a few times now, here it is again!.

    2. @doug “Bet you a pound to a penny if you asked the thick fuckers who voted for them if No Deal Brexit might make matters worse, the answer would be No, just get it done”

      THIS A 1000 TIMES ! and perhaps some of them are already dead , with many more innocent ones to follow sadly

  13. Challenge across the world is how to achieve herd immunity without overwhelming health services
    To avoid catastrophic death rates
    Lockdown delays the inevitable infections, it also wrecks the economy and has long term health costs
    Sweden is trying to balance all if these competing demands, the rest of the world is kicking the can down the road
    You can run away from Covid19 but you cannot hide from it

    1. There is no such thing as herd immunity outside of a vaccination program. It’s mendacious propaganda. The virus burns itself out through quarantine and social distancing. Talking about infecting 60% or more is nutcase eugenics. In any case, the Swedish death rate is 3 times that of other Nordic countries. Interestingly, they have been running their health service down in recent years as well.

      1. “There is no such thing as herd immunity outside of a vaccination program.”

        I am fascinated to know how you think human’s survived until humans could invent vaccines to save themselves. Yes diseases can travel faster today but human’s also have natural mechanisms for getting immunity to many viral infections especially of flu and cold varieties.

        I will state this, I am more afraid of being forced to have a rushed to market, not properly and rigorously tested vaccine than I am of getting CV 19 or flu in general. I also believe forcing me to have something put into MY body without my permission is a fundamental breach of my inalienable rights. I suppose people like me will have to be confined in some sort of camps to save society from us?

      2. Maria , humans died in their millions , for instance antibiotics saved millions , vaccine against Polio saved thousands , so imo a vaccine is the only way to deal with this , or as you seem to be inferring ,, ” spin the death dice and see if you’re lucky ”
        No thanks , I’ll take the vaccine .

    2. Taiwan have shown how to deal with it, Doug, without locking everything down and their economy grinding to a halt, because they were prepared and acted. We weren’t despite 3 studies and 1 exercise into precisely this kind of pandemic but the Tories thought the cost wasn’t worth it. As always, they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

      1. PW
        RT programme SophieCo spoke to a specialist in pandemics who talked about research stopping into SARS Vaccine as it wasn’t seen as profitable, that vaccine would have worked against Covid19
        The Gates Foundation are the leading research group and have been warning governments for years, you have to develop vaccines in advance of pandemics not in response too
        As usual Big Pharma dictates, nationalisation and coordination
        is way forward
        How has the human race survived to date

      2. Sorry, Doug but you’re talking crap. You simply can’t develop a vaccine before you know what the virus is and how it works, unless it has appeared before, which is why measles and smallpox vaccines work as they don’t appear as different types.

        Yes, Covid-19 is also a Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus but of a completely different type, in just the same way that flu viruses vary and you have to pick the strain most likely to arise in order to develop the annual vaccine from a previously known one.

        So, it follows that if Covid-19 was genetically the same, then it seems logical they would have developed a vaccine by now, regardless of what SophieCo’s pandemic expert might have suggested on RT.

        I don’t know why you keep persisting with this ‘herd immunity’ nonsense and instead do some research on how countries like Taiwan and S Korea have contained the spread precisely because of their experience of that particular Sars outbreak, which was far less transmissable but far more deadly.

        Do you not think they might have used that knowledge to develop a vaccine by now if it could be done from that particular virus type? They do keep samples of these diseases for that very specific reason.

        Why you think Big Pharma might be able to prevent Taiwan and S Korea from developing such a vaccine is just plain loco. Not everything boils down to a conspiracy theory, so try taking off the tin-foil hat for a while.

      3. PW
        You can listen to it on podcast 10th April episode, give me a shout if you still think you know more than the man
        You can guess I’m not going to hold my breath

      4. Have just watched it Doug and what I understand him to be saying with regard to a vaccine is that because these types of corona viruses are similar and don’t tend to change much over time, then a vaccine could have been much nearer to development than is presently the case (about 1-2 years), not that Sars-1 vaccine would work for Sars-2 but that it would have been the starting point instead of having to start afresh and would probably have been available within a few months, perhaps even sooner.

        Also anti-virals could have been developed sooner to treat infections but in both cases, as you rightly say and he confirms, their wasn’t the financial incentive in the West to do so. Also, as he says, Sars-1 was over quickly without any real impact, if at all, in the West as it was contained in the East and then disappeared.

        With regard to herd immunity, he thinks possibly between 50% to 70% would mean the current extreme measures could be eased and that a 2nd wave later on would have far less of an impact although there is no certainty as to how long immunity would last, although a 2nd infection would likely be less severe.

        Moreover, there is still no understanding as to why some appear to have no ill effects, while others become critical and die.

        However, I didn’t get the impression he was suggesting, as Johnson was re ‘taking it on the chin’, that it is a solution because it would still mean many more dying than is currently the case, as well as many having long term damage to their health even after recovery. That is on top of the overload to the health system as you rightly say.

        Without a vaccine the idea of herd immunity as a long-term solution is not a viable proposition and I don’t believe that was being suggested either.

        At the end of the day, given the present state of play, it still remains a fact that Taiwan and S Korea have managed to contain the virus far more effectively than the West without grinding to a halt, or experiencing anything like the casualty rate, due to their experience from Sars-1.

        As he suggests at the end, he hopes that the West takes lessons from this where they should have from Sars-1, instead of ignoring it because it didn’t happen here, and be ready to act in future. I couldn’t agree more and certainly one of the best analyses I’ve seen.

      5. PW
        His explanation of immune systems over reacting is the answer to why some people with no underlying problems sadly pass away
        Also that we live in a biological jungle and viruses have for time immemorial tried to wipe us out
        It’s an absolute no brainer that the world comes together to combat future attacks
        Completely agree cheap and nasties were planning to let it rip through us

    3. Maria
      The Minister always hides behind departmental spokespeople, now did they learn that from Campbell and Mandelson
      We know Cameron and Osborne worshipped at the feet of Blair and Brown which made them the bastard grandchildren of Thatcher
      Keir and Ed already getting treatment, Wallace & Gromit, bacon sandwich
      Labour needs to agree to names for Tory Cockwombles and drive them home so they stick in the minds of the electorate
      Basic propaganda principles

      1. Not sure what point you are making Doug. I see politicians working within a system for personal and some very ideological reasons. I believe those systems have evolved over hundreds of years to support the established monied/wealth holding and Rentier classes.

        Focussing on individual ‘baddies’ isn’t going to help anyone try and see bigger pictures and put things into a context that makes sense. I agree we need to point out the part politicians, and Govs play in the systems, especially when particularly egregious but I think we need to try and look at a bigger picture.
        Rentier interests are global these days, there might be some competition between Plutocrats, Oligarchs and Banksters but the unifying factor is accumulation of further wealth and power at the expense of societies and environments around the globe.

      2. Maria
        There are those who are part of the problem and those the solution, you can work with the latter
        There are those who wear the team colours but have no idea how to play the game
        Too many ism’s on here


    “I deeply resent not being told the truth. Day in and day out the government is providing false data to the country at present which is reported as fact when it is nothing like that.

    Our Covid-19 deaths are far worse than the government represents.

    This government’s failure, in the European context, is far worse than the data yet tells.

    The real cost of this misinformation is going to be massive.

    And I am angry about that. This government is engaging in a propaganda war it is bound to lose at cost to us all and is doing so simply to protect their own incompetence.

    That is unforgivable. I hope they are not forgiven.

  15. Are the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer in breach of their respective Code of Professional practice?

    1. SM, I am a retired nurse and have pondered on that question too. The Chief Nurse is still registered as a nurse on the Register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council. You can access the Register on line by accessing the NMC website. All you need is her name and you can access and check the details of her registration entry. As an RN she is personally accountable to the NMC for acts of commission or commission. The problem is she is employed as a senior Civil Servant and will have signed the Officials Secrets Act and be limited to what she can report even to the NMC. The NMC would be unlikely to initiate an enquiry unless there was a complaint about her personally. They do not investigate generalities, only complaints re specific RNs

  16. Dunno where an earlier post I made has gone (Was made from my phone, maybe that’s the problem) but earleir this morning the beeb had the woman from the RCN who asked hancock about how many nurses had died and got the answer ‘some’.

    She said she has the figures for the number of of victims now. When asked how many, I can’t remember her exact words but it went something like: ‘I don’t want to betray the confidentiality of the victims’ families.”

    Now I was wondering if she’s been instructed to take that line? I only caught the last minute or two of the interview but she seemed loathe to say much and fairly hesitant when asked previously if hancock had provided figures for the ‘some nurses’ from last week.

  17. Oh, and I don’t remember hancock asking MY permission before he GAVE AWAY my data to amazon.

    ..Wonder where hancock’s post parliamentary employment will end up?

  18. I do believe most modern politicians are self serving, career ladder incompetents. I do not believe the British civil service and ‘security services’ are incompetent. They, in my opinion, are the primary arms of the state set up to further the interests of the establishment and they advise incompetent politicians along with an array of selected ‘experts’.

    Media loves shock and awe, these days it’s revenue and media is the primary instrument of public influence. Gov making contradictory statements throws confusion into the mix which injects another level of fear into public consciousness. BBC, Channel 4 so called public service broadcasters also are beholden to Gov and establishment forces, other big media is owned by a handful of Oligarchs and multi-millionaires whose interests are directly at odds with the public and society.

    Fear and manipulating public emotion is how Govs enact policies and actions on behalf of ‘special interests’ and Rentier class systems with little public resistance. We’ve seen these mechanisms at work in wars of aggression, I implore people to take a break and think through whether we are or could be being manipulated now?

    If anyone thinks I believe Covid-19 isn’t a danger to many, especially the most vulnerable and those caring for infected sick, for saying the above, they can sling their hook. Please people take a break from ‘news’, get out for your daily walk and enjoy nature, watch crappy movies, cook a nice meal, anything to give you a break from stressing. It’s bad for you to stress for days on end especially bad for your immune system.

    I heard the first cuckoo of the season here on Wednesday evening, always a lift, waiting for the swallows, my personal favourite sign of spring and coming summer, which I haven’t seen yet.

  19. I wonder how many of the relatives of NHS employees ,who have died, have been approached to sign a permission to share form. If this is required , which Hancock and May suggest, and has not been completed, then the government has not complied GDPR Act and therefore the incidence should be reported to the Informationer Commisioner ‘ Office (ICO). This is what the Government are attempting to hide behind.

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