matt hancock

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

There follows a guest post by the Lockdown Sceptics’ in-house medic, a former NHS doctor.

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

I hope the readers will forgive a little self-indulgence on my part if I relate an anecdote from the tail end of my 12 years as a junior doctor in the early years of the first Blair government. At the time, the Health Secretary Alan Milburn (advised by the youthful Simon Stevens) had issued strict waiting time targets to all hospitals.

I was tasked with sorting out the numbers of patients on the surgical waiting lists at a large teaching hospital. It became apparent that if a patient had a date for surgery, they were no longer counted as ‘waiting’, even if that date was many months in the future. Accordingly, I issued dozens of patients dates for surgery and achieved compliance with the waiting time targets at a stroke.

There was just one problem. Both the managers and I knew that all those patients had virtually no chance of getting into the hospital on their designated dates. Due to lack of available beds, they would all be cancelled a couple of days before admission. At a meeting with the CEO of the Trust, I pointed this out. He looked me in the eye and said, “Let me make one thing clear to you. There is no problem with beds in this hospital.”

I briefly considered debating the assertion, but realised it was a pointless endeavour. The facts did not fit the Chief Executive’s preferred narrative – so the facts had to change. He was subsequently awarded a Knighthood for services to healthcare.

And so, here we are twenty years later – still believing six impossible things before breakfast. We might call it the ‘rule of six’!

Here is my first example where a target failed to be matched by real world data. When considering facts there are three basic components. Understanding the collection process and the inherent errors and bias within that, the interpretation process, during which there will be a range of opinion, (although currently only one viewpoint is permitted) and finally presentation of the data which is open to the greatest amount of bias.

Graph 1 shows the actual number of patients admitted with COVID from the community in June (orange bars). The blue line indicates where SAGE predicted it would be as a consequence of easing lockdown restrictions. How annoying – the data does not correlate with the prediction. In fact, hospital admissions are stubbornly refusing to increase significantly.

Never mind. If we simply state loudly that something nasty ‘could happen’ in the future that will cover just about every situation where the observable data do not support the required conclusion. And we can also show Graph 2 – which records the number of positive ‘cases’ in May-June 2021. The public won’t realise that most of these cases were asymptomatic and they may well think that they are the same as people being admitted to hospital.

Hancock Quits; Sajid Javid to Replace Him As Health Secretary

Following Matt Hancock’s resignation, the Prime Minister has appointed former Chancellor Sajid Javid as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. BBC News has the story.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, [Hancock] said the Government “owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down”.

Boris Johnson said he was “sorry” to receive the resignation.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has been confirmed as the new Health Secretary, Downing Street said.

Mr Hancock had been under increasing pressure to quit, after the Sun published pictures of Mr Hancock and Gina Coladangelo, who are both married with three children, kissing. The newspaper said they had been taken inside the Department of Health on May 6th.

Fellow Tory MPs, as well as Labour and the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice group, had called for the Health Secretary to be sacked.

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said Number 10 had stressed that it had been Mr Hancock’s decision to go and that he had not been pushed out by the Prime Minister.

She said Ms Coladangelo was also leaving her role as a Non-Executive Director of the Department of Health.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Hancock said: “I have been to see the Prime Minister to resign as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.”

“I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, that you have made, and those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I have got to resign.”

Hancock’s full letter of resignation to the PM can be read below:

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to MailOnline it’s a love match between Matt and Gina and the ex-Health Secretary told his wife on Thursday evening that the marriage was over and he intended to leave her.

Hancock Facing Calls to Resign

At least one Conservative MP has publicly called for Matt Hancock to resign today, as pressure mounts on the Health Secretary. Duncan Baker, the MP for North Norfolk, told the Eastern Daily Press that people in public office with positions of responsibility “should act with the appropriate moral and ethics that come with that role”. The Independent has more.

Mr Baker told the newspaper the health secretary should resign and said he had made his views known to Boris Johnson’s administration.

It comes after the prime minister attempted to save his beleaguered cabinet minister — declaring the matter “closed” on Friday — but questions have continued to mount over Mr Hancock’s conduct in office, after he was filmed embracing in his Whitehall office with a longtime friend he placed on the government payroll.

The Daily Telegraph also reported Conservative MPs were telling the prime minister to “pull the plug” on the health secretary, but, until now, have resisted from making their views publicly known.

Speaking on GB News on Saturday, Esther McVey, a former Tory cabinet minister also added to the intensifying pressure on Mr Hancock, saying: “If it had been me, I would have resigned myself.”

She added: “I’m hoping that Matt Hancock is thinking the same thing that he doesn’t have to have it pushed upon him it will be viewed far more admirably if he comes forward reassessing it and that’s what I’d like to see.”

I said the same thing on Twitter last night, arguing that he should resign for self-interested reasons.

Bill Clinton’s aides had a ’10-day rule’, meaning that if a politician manages to cling on for 10 days after a scandal breaks he can then survive because the media will inevitably get bored of the story and move on to something else. Alastair Campbell amended this to 11 days on the grounds that British journalists had a slightly longer attention span than their American counterparts. Eleven days from the Hancock story breaking in the Sun would be Monday July 5th. If I was a betting man – and I am – I’d say he’ll be gone by then.

Cabinet Reshuffle May Be Brought Forward to Give Matt Hancock a “Dignified” Exit from Role

With the first Tory MP having broken ranks to call for disgraced Matt Hancock to resign, there are rumours that the next Cabinet reshuffle could be brought forward to give the Health Secretary a “dignified” departure from his job. The Mail has the story.

Boris Johnson has been toying with a planned reshuffle for months, but had recently decided to postpone it until the autumn.

However, a Tory source said the shake-up could be brought forward to next month to allow the Prime Minister to move Mr Hancock to a lower-profile role.

The Health Secretary was mercilessly mocked on social media yesterday after admitting he broke his own social distancing rules during a passionate clinch with aide Gina Coladangelo. Senior Tories fear revelations of his hypocrisy will undermine public support for continuing lockdown measures, making it “imperative” that he is moved to a new job.

One said: “I think you will see the Prime Minister bring forward his reshuffle quite quickly now. Hancock doesn’t want to quit and the PM doesn’t want to sack him, but it is quite clear that a dignified way has to be found to move him on.

“Hancock is going to find it very hard to persuade anyone to take him seriously on Covid now. But it’s clear the PM wants to reward his loyalty so another job, preferably out of the public eye, is possible.

“It was always quite likely that he would be moved from health when the reshuffle came anyway, but now it’s imperative.”

Michael Gove and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden were both tipped for a move to the Department of Health yesterday morning before the Prime Minister decided to stand by Mr Hancock. Mr Johnson has also considered Trade Secretary Liz Truss for the role.

Some Tory MPs were pushing for Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi to get the job after orchestrating the successful jabs rollout.

Mr Zahawi yesterday backed his boss to stay, telling reporters: “The Secretary of State has apologised and has said everything he needs to say.” Former Tory leader William Hague also backed the decision to keep Mr Hancock in his post for now.

Worth reading in full.

Matt Hancock Caught Snogging Aide

The Sun has an old fashioned ‘minister-caught-having-an-affair’ scoop on its front page today – and the politician in the frame is Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

He cheated on his wife with Gina Coladangelo, 43, who he hired last year with taxpayers’ money, as Covid gripped Britain.

Mr Hancock, 42, and millionaire lobbyist Gina were caught on camera in a steamy clinch at his Whitehall office.

Whistleblowers revealed the Health Secretary had been ­spotted cheating on his wife of 15 years with married Ms ­Coladangelo.

He was seen kissing her at the Department of Health’s London HQ during office hours last month as the mutant strain began spreading.

A Whitehall whistleblower told The Sun it was “shocking that Mr Hancock was having an affair in the middle of a pandemic with an adviser and friend he used public money to hire”.

Last night, a friend of the Health Secretary said: “He has no comment on personal matters. No rules have been broken.”

Mr Hancock was pictured embracing his aide. The image was from just after 3pm on May 6 — as the rest of Westminster was engrossed by the local elections.

He is seen in his distinctive ninth-floor office inside the sprawling Department of Health building, which is a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament.

During the pandemic, the office has provided the backdrop to his Zoom appearances on TV — including the Andrew Marr Show.

Mr Hancock is seen checking the corridor is clear before closing the door and then leaning on it to ensure he cannot be disturbed.

Ms Coladangelo then walks towards him and the pair begin their passionate embrace.

According to a whistleblower, who used to work at the department, the pair have regularly been caught in clinches together.

The source said: “They have tried to keep it a secret but everyone knows what goes on inside a building like that.

“I’m just amazed he was so brazen about it as he was the Secretary of State.

“It has also shocked people because he put her in such an important, publicly-funded role and this is what they get up to in office hours when everyone else is working hard.”

Worth reading in full.

On the face of it, this actually strengthens Hancock’s position – already pretty strong after Dominic Cummings’ singled him out for criticism. After all, Boris can hardly sack a Cabinet minister for having an affair without looking like a complete hypocrite. Nevertheless, there are some questions that Hancock will have to answer.

  • Was the Health Secretary having an affair with Gina Coladangelo before she became a paid, non-executive director at the DHSS?
  • Were the correct procedures followed before she was hired? Non-exec positions at Government departments aren’t usually advertised and Hancock wouldn’t be the first Secretary of State to appoint a crony to the board of his department. But they do have to be properly vetted – and interviewed – by the Civil Service. Did that happen in this case?

I expect the answer to the second question is probably “yes”, so Hancock’s fate will turn on the answer to the first. If the affair predated the job, that doesn’t look good. It feeds into the “One rule for them” theme which could end up being a problem for the Government. As a regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics put it to me in an email this morning:

It looks to me that this might be another case of one rule for you and another for me. Seems suspicious that MH’s mistress was hired as an aide going into lockdown last year, while hundreds of thousands of other people were separated from their lovers for months on end. Also note that Hancock and mistress are seen social distancing in public and embracing in private.

Did Gina’s husband come home at the last minute?

Stop Press: MailOnline has a good selection of Hancock memes here.

Stop Press 2: Hancock condemned Neil Ferguson for breaking lockdown rules to see his lover last year.

Stop Press 3: Roberto Coladangelo, Gina Coladangelo’s brother, is an executive at a healthcare company that has won a string of NHS contracts. Sky News has more.

Plans for “Booster” Covid Vaccine Roll-Out Coming Within Weeks

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that plans for a “booster” Covid vaccine roll-out in the autumn will be set out in the coming weeks. BBC News has the story.

The Health Secretary said ministers were waiting for results from trials of different combinations of vaccines.

It comes after doctors and NHS trusts said planning for a booster rollout must start now as it will involve bigger challenges. 

They said many questions needed answering, including how long immunity from the original Covid jab lasts.

The issue of whether children will be vaccinated also still remains, health leaders said.

“We are currently trialling which combinations of jabs are the most effective,” Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast. 

“In the next few weeks, when we get the clinical data through on what’s the most effective combinations to have… then we’ll set out all the details for the booster programme for the autumn.”

Among the ongoing trials is the U.K.’s Cov-Boost trial, which is testing different combinations of third doses across England. 

A senior Government source said the U.K. would also benefit from new vaccines from Novavax and Valneva, which are awaiting approval from the U.K.’s medicines regulator. 

So far, nearly 60% of U.K. adults have had two jabs of the vaccine, meaning they are fully vaccinated, and more than four in five adults have had their first dose.

People have been rushing to get their vaccines in recent days, with more than one million jabs booked on Friday and Saturday in England after vaccinations opened to all over-18s.

Worth reading in full.

NHS Doctor: Matt Hancock is “Not Fit for Public Office and Needs to be Removed Before He Inflicts Further Harm on the People of this Country”

NHS GP Dr Helen Westwood, a member of HART, has written a letter to her MP Sir Graham Brady expressing her concerns about the possible Government plans for mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers and others. She previously wrote to him at the end of April and received a reply from Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi that we published on Lockdown Sceptics offering the paper-thin reassurance that the U.K. “currently operates a system of informed consent for vaccinations”. “Why does he need to use the word ‘currently’?” she asked. “Are there plans for mandatory vaccination in future?” There were indeed, and she is not impressed – to the point of calling for Health Secretary Matt Hancock to be shown the door before he does any more damage. Here is her letter in full.

Dear Sir Graham,

I refer to my earlier correspondence dated March 2nd and April 26th regarding the concerns I have about the COVID-19 vaccination program.

I am grateful to you for raising these concerns with the Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment. Sadly Mr Zahawi seems to be either unwilling or unable to respond to my questions. Perhaps he is just delaying until the vaccine rollout has reached the whole adult population as it is due to imminently.

Mr Zahawi said in his letter to you that “the UK currently operates a system of informed consent for vaccinations”. Clearly the current proposals to make vaccinations compulsory for care home workers and possibly frontline NHS workers is completely counter to this. If a medical intervention is mandated for one group in society why not others? What about visitors to care homes? Delivery drivers? Shop workers? The list will go on and on.

I would like to draw your attention again to Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. It states that “any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice”. If an individual is being coerced into undergoing vaccination, through fear of losing their livelihood, then they are not giving “free and informed consent”. In effect, the person administering the vaccine in such circumstances is committing the criminal offence of Assault and Battery. We know that the pharmaceutical companies have been granted legal indemnity by the Government but what indemnity does the vaccinator have in this situation?

In my opinion to ask anyone to undergo a medical intervention for the benefit of others is profoundly unethical. Population immunity, achieved through high vaccine take-up, is a by-product rather than the primary reason for immunising an individual. This ethical problem is particularly pertinent to the arguments given for rolling the program out to children, but is also relevant to the majority of healthy working-age adults. The mortality risk from COVID-19 in this cohort is lower than that for seasonal influenza. People are being persuaded to have these vaccines to protect society at large. Why is nobody in Government paying attention to the significant morbidity and mortality being reported on the Yellow Card system in relation to the administration of the vaccines? Young healthy people are being exposed to risks, both known and unknown, in taking these vaccines yet have little to gain in terms of personal benefit. Dr Tess Lawrie wrote an open letter to MHRA Chief Executive Dr June Raine saying that “the MHRA now has more than enough evidence on the Yellow Card system to declare the COVID-19 vaccines unsafe for use in humans”. At the very least we should be pausing to review the data before coercing young care home workers into having this vaccine when the results of the phase 3 trials are not yet known or understood.

In my discussions with patients who have undergone vaccination I have come to realise that many are unaware that these vaccines do not yet have full marketing authorisation. Sadly, the vaccine trials have now been compromised by being unblinded and control arm participants being offered the active drug. Given that these vaccines are still in their experimental phase, surely point 1 of the Nuremberg code applies: the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. How is this in any way compatible with mandatory vaccination?

According to Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister referred to Matt Hancock as “fucking hopeless”. Having heard the Health Secretary say that there is a “material difference” in the duty of care owed by the state to those who have not yet been offered the vaccine compared to those that have not taken up the offer of vaccination, I would go as far as to say he is dangerous and a menace. He is not fit for public office and needs to be removed from his post before he inflicts further harm on the people of this country. The GMC’s Good Medical Practice guidance states that Doctors must “treat patients and colleagues fairly and without discrimination“. I do not think there is an exception to this based on vaccination status. Similarly the NHS constitution says that “the NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all” and that staff has a “duty not to discriminate against patients or staff and to adhere to…human rights legislation”. With regard to patients it says “you have the right to accept or refuse treatment that is offered to you, and not to be given any…treatment unless you have given valid consent”. Perhaps the Health Secretary ought to familiarise himself with these documents.

Having read my comments you will not be surprised to learn that I still do not intend to take this vaccine currently. I refuse to be bullied into undergoing a medical intervention against my will. It is against everything I would advocate for my patients. With record waiting lists in the NHS it would seem to me to be unwise to risk losing a proportion of the workforce by forging ahead with plans for making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Helen Westwood

“Totally F***ing Hopeless” – Boris Johnson’s Verdict on Matt Hancock

Dominic Cummings has published a trove of confidential material on his Twitter and Substack accounts today, including a WhatsApp exchange between him and the Prime Minister in which Boris describes the Health Secretary as “Totally f***ing hopeless”. MailOnline has more.

In an exchange from March 27th last year Mr Cummings criticised the Health Secretary over the failure to ramp up testing. Mr Johnson replied: “Totally f***ing hopeless.” He then tried to call his senior aide three times without managing to get through.

Another from the same day saw Mr Cummings complain that the Department of Health had been turning down ventilators because “the price has been marked up”. Mr Johnson said: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”

On April 27, Mr Johnson apparently messaged Mr Cummings to say that PPE was a “disaster”, suggesting that Michael Gove should take charge instead.

“I can’t think of anything except taking Hancock off and putting Gove on.”

Mr Cummings dropped the incendiary revelations in a lengthy post on the Substack blogging platform just minutes before PMQs.

It included vicious passages condemning Mr Johnson for “telling rambling stories and jokes” instead of chairing crucial meetings properly, and a claim that the PM is intending to quit in order to “make money” rather than serving a full term if he wins the next election.

Worth reading in full.

Matt Hancock Should Have Been Sacked for “Lying to Everybody on Multiple Occasions”, Says Cummings

Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former Chief Aide, began his appearance in front of a joint meeting of the Science and Technology Select Committee and the Health and Social Care Select Committee today by apologising for his own mistakes relating to the Government’s response to Covid and for falling – alongside ministers, advisors and other officials – “disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect… in a crisis like this”.

It didn’t take long for Dominic’s attention to turn to the failings of others. Perhaps his most eye-catching assertion was that Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been sacked “for at least 15 to 20 things”, including “lying to everybody on multiple occasions”. The MailOnline has more.

He accused the Health Secretary, among other things, of overplaying the U.K.’s readiness for a massive infectious disease outbreak early last year.

And in a gobsmaking [sic] personal attack, which even took the MPs on the Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees by surprise, he today said: “Like in much of the Government system, there were many brilliant people at relatively junior and middle levels who were terribly let down by senior leadership.

“I think the Secretary of State for Health should’ve been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly. 

“There’s no doubt at all that many senior people performed far, far disastrously below the standards which the country has a right to expect. I think the Secretary of State for Health is certainly one of those people.

“I said repeatedly to the Prime Minister that he should be fired, so did the Cabinet Secretary, so did many other senior people.”

Mr Cummings said one of Matt Hancock’s lies was that everybody got the treatment they deserved in the first peak when “many people were left to die in horrific circumstances”.

Asked to provide evidence of the Health Secretary’s lying, the former Chief Aide to the Prime Minister told the Commons committee: “There are numerous examples. I mean in the summer he said that everybody who needed treatment got the treatment that they required.

“He knew that that was a lie because he had been briefed by the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer himself about the first peak, and we were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved, many people were left to die in horrific circumstances.”

Mr Cummings said that assurances given to him by Mr Hancock in January last year that pandemic preparations were brilliant “were basically completely hollow”.

Other points made by Cummings relating to the Government’s Covid response were highlighted by Toby last night, and Sky News has since produced a handy report on the main allegations made in the session.

The MailOnline report is also worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Freddie Sayers of UnHerd has written about Dom’s fantasy version of events: that he invented lockdown.

Stop Press 2: Having watched DC’s testimony, Ross Clark says in the Telegraph that it’s just as well he’s out of Government because his contempt for democracy was palpable.

Stop Press 3: A senior Tory has told the Telegraph that Hancock is now the Cabinet member least likely to be moved in the coming reshuffle.

Dominic Cummings might be gunning for Matt Hancock – but that doesn’t mean he is at risk from a demotion at the next reshuffle if the word in Westminster is to be believed.

One senior Tory tells me: “Matt Hancock has now got the safest role in govt – Boris won’t sack him now.”

That’s not to say the claims aren’t being believed. “[Matt] can exaggerate,” says the MP. “He hears things are possible and then tells you that it is already happening. It’s v plausible.”

But he is safe because the Prime Minister “won’t admit Cummings is right… it would show weakness if Boris did it now”.

“And Hancock is the shield for the boss,” the backbencher adds.

Taken from the Telegraph‘s live blog of Cummings’ testimony.

Cummings Claims That Government’s Original Plan Was ‘Herd Immunity by September’

In early March of 2020, there was rising public concern that the UK was taking an altogether different approach to its neighbours, leading some people to joke that Britain was the world’s “control group”. To allay public fears, the health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote an op-ed in The Telegraph on March 15th claiming that “herd immunity” was not part of the government’s plan. Here’s the full quote:

We have a plan, based on the expertise of world-leading scientists. Herd immunity is not a part of it. That is a scientific concept, not a goal or a strategy. Our goal is to protect life from this virus, our strategy is to protect the most vulnerable and protect the NHS through contain, delay, research and mitigate.

Now Dominic Cummings – the former chief advisor to Boris Johnson, who left No. 10 “with immediate effect” in mid November – has claimed that the government did intend to pursue a “herd immunity” strategy. At 3:38 this afternoon, Cummings tweeted:

Media generally abysmal on covid but even I’ve been surprised by 1 thing: how many hacks have parroted Hancock’s line that ‘herd immunity wasn’t the plan’ when ‘herd immunity by Sep’ was *literally the official plan in all docs/graphs/meetings* until it was ditched

In a subsequent tweet, Cummings elaborated on why the government’s original plan was “ditched”. He writes:

In week of 9/3, No10 was made aware by various people that the official plan wd lead to catastrophe. It was then replaced by Plan B. But how ‘herd immunity by Sep’ cd have been the plan until that week is a fundamental issue in the whole disaster

What Cummings says is of course broadly consistent with the statements Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance had made up until the date of Hancock’s article, as well as with the infamous ‘UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011’. In a hearing of the Health and Social Care Committee on March 5th, Whitty said, “what we’re very keen to do is not intervene until the point we absolutely have to, so as to minimise economic and social disruption.”

Opinions obviously differ about whether the original plan would “lead to catastrophe”, but it’s interesting to have an insider’s perspective on the Government’s early planning.

Stop Press: In a further tweet, Cummings has accused the Government of lying. He writes:

No10 decided to lie: ‘herd immunity has never been… part of our coronavirus strategy’. V foolish, & appalling ethics, to lie about it. The right line wd have been what PM knows is true: our original plan was wrong & we changed when we realised