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
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.
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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