In defence of Matt Hancock

In the Herald today:

MATT HANCOCK has disputed claims he mishandled care home discharges and said the Scottish Government had the “same issues” to deal with as he did. Speaking to MPs this morning, the health secretary was put under pressure to explain the allegations made against him yesterday by former senior aide Dominic Cummings.

He’s right, we did have the same issues. To make sure hospitals were not overwhelmed and to protect the vulnerable more at risk in hospitals than back in care homes, NHS Scotland and NHS England discharged patients, some not tested, more quickly from hospital wards back into the existing infection control regimes which care homes were already legally obliged to have.

So, two important facts in support of Hancock:

  1. There is no evidence whatsoever that hospital discharges caused any Covid outbreaks in care homes. They were almost certainly, in every case, caused by community transmission, inadvertently spread by agency staff in large, overcrowded, understaffed privately-owned homes with inadequate staff training and PPE supplies.
  2. According to Robert Cuffe, the BBC’s Head of Statistics, on the BBC News at 6 in early May 2021, those Care Homes that received discharges, actually had a lower rate of Covid deaths.

Where Hancock did fail was in allowing the delay in vaccinating care home residents, throughout December 2020 and January 2021, because of technical challenges with Pfizer and triggering a wave of deaths more than twice that in Scotland.

8 thoughts on “In defence of Matt Hancock

  1. Nevertheless on April 15 2020: from

    Testing will be made available for all patients discharged to a care home from hospital “with immediate effect”, while there was already testing capacity for all social care workers who need a test to have one, said the Department of Health and Social Care.

    This did not happen.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. this did not happen because it could not happen – or not for everyone being transferred. If you go here, it sets out all the data re testing capacity. The important table is “Testing capacity by Pillar”, which gives daily tests available from 20/03/20. Pillars are defined as

      pillar 1: swab testing in Public Health England (PHE) labs and NHS hospitals for those with a clinical need, and health and care workers
      pillar 2: swab testing for the wider population, as set out in government guidance
      pillar 3: serology testing to show if people have antibodies from having had COVID-19
      pillar 4: blood and swab testing for national surveillance supported by PHE, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and research, academic, and scientific partners to learn more about the prevalence and spread of the virus and for other testing research purposes, such as the accuracy and ease of use of home testing
      So really we are talking about Pillars 1 and 2. On 20th March testing capacity was 6127, all Pillar 1. There was nothing for Pillar 2. I’m not sure under which pillar we would find elderly stuck in hospital about to be moved out to care homes, but even if 1 we have to remember this is the whole UK, not just Scotland. Our share would be about 500.
      By end March (ie 8 days into the lockdown) Pillar 1 had increased to 15499, but still nothing for any of the three other pillars.
      By mid April Pillar 1 testing was at 23966 and Pillar 2 at 14300. The first Pillar 2 tests were not availalble till 8th April.
      Pillar 2 had at last accelerated by 30th April, to 79000, while Pillar 1 was 42175.
      Now in thinking about all of this we need to bear in mind two factors
      1. these figs are for the whole UK
      2. there would be demand from other sectors. For instance, Doctors and Nurses treating those with Covid and other “front line” workers.
      In short, so few elderly were tested prior to transfer because the tests just werent there to be used (I’ll come back to this)
      The other thing is, what was the alternative? Either they could be transferred out of hospital to somewhere, or left in hospitals filling up with folk with Covid so they could catch it as well? I can understand Hancock’s problem.
      That said – and I did say I would come back to this – just why were we so ill-prepared. It took weeks to get testing up to the level required for a pandemic. There was pressure on supplies of PPE. It might be argued – particularly by an accountant – that Covid was such an unusual event that we couldnt prepare for it. We wouldnt for instance have that much spare testing capacity lying around just in case, or filling up warehouses with PPE that would never be used. BUT, on at least two occassions govt – including the Scottish Govt – have been warned since 2010 that we were woefully ill-prepared to address anything like Covid (they always thought it would be flu though). And for that Hancock – and govt generally – can rightly be criticised.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Public Health England were in charge of the testing at the start of the pandemic. They wanted all test samples, including from Scotland, to be sent to their labs in England. PHE appear to have assumed that, like England, many of the NHS labs in Scotland were withering on the vine because of lack of investment and the increasing use of private labs. In Scotland that is most definitely not the case.

        PHE eventually realised their plans to process all samples was unworkable and distributed test kits to Scotland, Wales etc in mid-February. In Scotland the Virology labs in GRI and ERI took over responsibility for testing samples but positive samples had to be sent south to PHE labs for confirmation.

        Reagents for the tests were in short supply at various times because of course everybody wanted them. Perhaps we could cut PHE some slack on this one since the test was newly developed so exactly what would be needed in terms of reagents was not known. Furthermore some of the reagents have a limited shelf-life so could not be stockpiled ahead of any emerging pandemic. If the pandemic had been bacterial rather than viral in nature then the reagents needed would be completely different.

        By mid-April PHE advised labs to switch to commercial testing kits because of shortages affecting the supply of their test and issues with its reliability.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. The Herod is not particularly interested in whether the discharge of hospital patients into care homes did or did not result in increased fatalities. For them, the point is that it has kept the ‘narrative’ of care home deaths in Scotland ‘alive’. It has been a fairly regular tale from the MSM and opposition politicians since the pandemic began, despite the evidence to the contrary. If Hancock falls, then, by the Herod logic, the SG should fall, too. If Hancock does not fall, the care home death story has had another outing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. True that, the Herod will be hoping for the fall of Hancock, so they can call for the fall of the SG, all of the SNP, the BritNats want blood. Might Hancock be sacrificed to that agenda, next installment due any day now.

      Brexit? Farming, fishing, rewewables, Scottish jobs, Scotland’s economy?


  3. Hancock is right to say “the Scottish Government had the “same issues” to deal with as he did” because they had no choice whatsoever in the matter, everything revolved around the London mafia.
    Hancock on the other hand could have changed everything with an instruction or an ultimatum to his boss the Prime Charlatan, the buck stops with them.


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