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Covid inquiry live: Hancock ‘wanted to decide who should live or die if NHS became overwhelmed’

Lord Simon Stevens says Cabinet ministers ‘avoided’ Cobra meetings chaired by then-health secretary

Matt Mathers,Archie Mitchell,Andy Gregory
Friday 03 November 2023 05:51 GMT
Covid inquiry roundup: Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings provide worrying insight into No 10

Ex-health secretary Matt Hancock believed that he – rather than doctors or the public – should decide “who should live and who should die” if hospitals became overwhelmed with Covid patients, the former NHS chief executive has said.

Lord Simon Stevens said that “fortunately this horrible dilemma never crystallised”, as he told the Covid inquiry on Thursday that it would have to look “very carefully” at the issue of asymptomatic Covid patients being discharged from hospitals into care homes.

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock, who was health secretary at the start of the Covid outbreak, told Public Health England’s then medical director Yvonne Doyle “not to patronise him” when she warned that the virus could be in the UK, she told the inquiry.

She said she was barred from doing media interviews for a time after that, and apologised to him, even though she had been telling the truth.

It comes a day after former top civil servant and ethics chief Helen MacNamara said the “female perspective” was missed during the pandemic as she condemned a “toxic” and “macho” culture at the highest levels of Mr Johnson’s government.


Hancock and Stevens running NHS was ‘hideous prospect’, Cummings

The Covid inquiry has heard that Dominic Cummings thought Matt Hancock and Simon Stevens running the NHS during the pandemic was a “hideous prospect”.

A message read to the inquiry, sent by Mr Cummings, said: “I must stress that leaving Hancock in post is a big mistake.

“He's a proven liar, who nobody believes or should believe on anything. And we face going into an autumn crisis with him in charge of the NHS still.

“Therefore, we'll be back around that cabinet table with him and Stephens bullshitting again in September. Hideous prospect.”

Lord Stevens told the inquiry it was one of Mr Cummings’s “gentler epithets”.

Archie Mitchell2 November 2023 10:44

Watch live: Rishi Sunak holds press conference as AI summit comes to a close

As the Covid inquiry continues, Rishi Sunak is also holding a press conference at the end of his summit on artificial intelligence, which you can watch live here:

Andy Gregory2 November 2023 10:43

Hancock and Cummings tried to get rid of NHS chief executive

Our political correspondent Archie Mitchell reports:

Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings tried to get rid of the boss of the NHS in the early stages of the pandemic, WhatsApp messages shown to the Covid inquiry revealed.

In January 2020 the then health secretary told Mr Cummings that Lord Stevens’s resignation was “in train”.

And the next month Mr Cummings asked him when Lord Stevens would be “off”.

Mr Hancock tried to reassure Mr Cummings that Lord Stevens had told him he would leave by Christmas 2020.

Mr Cummings replied: “We must get on with it now.”

Lord Stevens did not resign until July 2021, more than a year later.

Andy Gregory2 November 2023 10:41

Watch: Cobra meetings were not ‘optimally effective’, says former NHS boss

Cobra meetings were not ‘optimally effective’, former NHS boss
Andy Gregory2 November 2023 10:38

‘Decision-makers did not know how NHS worked,’ Lord Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens has said a description by one of Britain’s top civil servants that decision-makers during the pandemic did not have a detailed understanding of the NHS was “accurate”.

The former NHS chief executive was asked about a statement by Helen MacNamara which said: “I do not remember anyone working in the centre… who had a detailed understanding of the way the NHS operated.”

“I think Helen’s description seems to be accurate,” Lord Stevens said.

Archie Mitchell2 November 2023 10:37

‘People did not think Covid measures were fair,’ former NHS chief

The former boss of the NHS told the prime minister patients did not think Covid measures were “fair”.

A readout from a meeting between Simon Stevens, Boris Johnson, chancellor Rishi Sunak and others revealed that Lord Stevens said people “questioned whether they worked”.

“And if they did work, they wanted financial support,” he told the meeting.

Lord Stevens said his view was based on discussions with patients and staff in the NHS.

Archie Mitchell2 November 2023 10:34

Cobra meetings were not ‘optimally effective’, former NHS boss

The former chief executive of the NHS has said the government’s emergency Cobra meetings were not “optimally effective”, reports our political correspondent Archie Mitchell.

Simon Stevens told the Covid inquiry the meetings were very large and when then health secretary Matt Hancock was chairing them, other ministers avoided attending.

The size of the meetings also made it hard to “have very substantial discussions”, Lord Stevens added.

And he said if Boris Johnson had chaired more Cobra meetings to discuss the pandemic, then more secretaries of state would have chosen to attend.

Andy Gregory2 November 2023 10:24

Covid inquiry returns for fourth day in blockbuster week

Our political correspondent Archie Mitchell reports:

And we are back for the fourth day of what has been a blockbuster week at the Covid inquiry.

Lord Simon Stevens, the former chief executive of the NHS, is first up this morning and will be followed by Sir Christopher Wormald, the Department of Health’s former permanent secretary.

Up this afternoon is Dr Yvonne Doyle, the former medical director of Public Health England.

Stay tuned…

Andy Gregory2 November 2023 10:09

Medical professionals to receive honours for pandemic work

Medical professionals who carried out important work during the Covid pandemic are among those receiving honours at Buckingham Palace.

Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, who began researching the phenomenon of long Covid in 2020, and Charlotte Kume-Holland, who was appointed head of strategy for the Government’s vaccine deployment in January 2021 will be honoured.

Prof Chew-Graham began her research after becoming aware of patients presenting with symptoms early in the pandemic, in her work as a practising GP.

She has also co-designed a training module for other GPs on helping patients with long Covid. She will be made an OBE, while Ms Kume-Holland will be made an MBE.

Andy Gregory2 November 2023 09:58

Minister ‘deeply concerned’ over ‘misogyny’ in Covid inquiry revelations

The “misogyny” on display in Dominic Cummings’ WhatsApp messages risks putting women off entering politics, Tory cabinet minister Michelle Donelan has warned.

The science secretary told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I think I am concerned about some of the revelations and the comments that are coming out here, because my biggest concern is that other women will be watching and hearing that rhetoric and deciding that maybe politics isn’t for them.”

She added: “I don’t condone misogyny in any workplace. It makes me deeply concerned or angry, if you like, around rhetoric that is not appropriate, especially as we are meant to lead by example.”

She said “we should be encouraging Parliament and the ministerial team to be as diverse as possible” and that is what Rishi Sunak has done as prime minister.

“What we want to make sure is that the next generation of politicians that come forward equally represent different parts of society and we’re not putting people off from politics, because that would be to the detriment of democracy.

“So I am concerned about the countless women that will be hearing this and I’m reading these comments.”

Andy Gregory2 November 2023 09:47

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