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Hospital faces backlash after defending Boris Johnson not wearing mask: ‘Inexcusable’

NHS trust accused of lying and ‘trying to excuse the inexcusable’ on social media

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 09 November 2021 15:47 GMT
Hospital criticised for defending ‘maskless’ PM
Hospital criticised for defending ‘maskless’ PM (REUTERS)

An NHS Trust has been heavily criticised for defending Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he was pictured not wearing a mask in its hospital.

Boris Johnson came under heavy fire on Monday after he was pictured walking around Hexham General Hospital in Northumbria.

The NHS trust he visited is now facing a backlash after it defended the prime minister’s actions on social media.

Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust said in a tweet on Monday, “Please be assured that infection prevention and control remains an utmost priority for our trust. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed strict measures, including wearing a mask, in each clinical area he visited.

However, the trust’s official policy for visiting, published on its website, says the public have to “wear a face covering when you enter the hospital until you leave”.

It adds: “You must ensure that you wear your covering or mask throughout your visit and you must not remove your face covering/mask or kiss your loved one.”

The guidance does not say non-clinical areas of hospital are exempt.

Northumbria Healthcare’s defence of the Prime Minister, despite its own policy, has provoked a wave criticism from medics, those working in the NHS and the public on social media.

One NHS director said it would have been better to say nothing “than to lie and try to excuse the inexcusable.”

In another response, one NHS medic responded to the trust that “its incredibly disappointing to see that you didn’t ask the Prime Minister to wear a mask in all areas of the hospital.”

Another clinician said the trust’s response “would be hard for staff to see.”

One NHS chief executive in the Midlands, Richard Beeken, tweeted that he assumed the trust asked the Prime Minister and he refused, but added “if they didn’t ask him then that’s just plain wrong”.

In July, ahead of the government lifting all major Covid restrictions, chief nurse for the NHS, Ruth May, said in a statement: “Face coverings and social distancing measures will remain in place across healthcare settings so that the most vulnerable people can continue to safely attend hospital, their GP surgery, pharmacy or any other healthcare settings for advice, care and treatment.”

In the same statement, former health minister Jo Churchill, said: “Face coverings have played an important role in healthcare settings, helping protect vulnerable patients, staff and visitors by limiting the spread of this deadly disease and this guidance remains in place.

“We expect patients, visitors and NHS staff to continue using face coverings and maintain social distancing in all healthcare settings as we cautiously lift restrictions on Monday.”

Deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, also defended the Mr Johnson – insisting he followed NHS rules.

He told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “I know the Prime Minister took the advice on the clinical setting that he was in and followed all the protocols and procedures that were applied there, and that’s what everyone should do.”

Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust declined to comment.

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