Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘We all need to be careful with what we say and the numbers we use and as I say that includes me.’
Officials need to be careful when discussing Covid figures, Sajid Javid warned today in the wake of NHS England’s boss wrongly claiming hospitals were now treating more infected patients than a year ago.
The Health Secretary claimed all health chiefs must be ‘cautious about the facts and figures’ they use.
He also defended Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the country’s health service, and said her timings were merely ‘misunderstood’.
Crisis accused Ms Pritchard of ‘abusing’ Covid statistics after she exaggerated the number of infected patients in hospital with the virus.
During a round of interviews on Monday morning, she said there were ’14 times’ more coronavirus patients in hospital now compared to ‘this time last year’.
Yet latest data from the Government’s dashboard shows there were 800 average daily coronavirus admissions and 7,000 inpatients in England on Friday. This time in November 2020, for comparison, the figures stood at around 1,300 and 11,000, respectively.
NHS England was later forced to clarify Ms Pritchard was referring to statistics from August, when hospital rates were in fact higher than the same time last year.
Asked whether he should talk to Ms Pritchard about the error and if the NHS should be extra careful with figures, especially when anti-vaxxers leap on data that paint jabs in a bad light, Mr Javid said: ‘We all need to be cautious about the facts and figures that we use and that of course that includes me.
During a round of interviews this morning, Amanda Pritchard suggested that there were ’14 times’ more coronavirus patients in hospital now compared to ‘this time last year’. Yet latest data from the Government’s dashboard shows there were 800 average daily Covid admissions on November 3, compared to almost 1,300 at the same point last year
There were 7,000 inpatients in England on Friday compared to more than 11,000 patients in hospital with the disease on November 5 2020
Ms Pritchard (left) made the comments as she urged people to come forward for their booster vaccines (progress, shown right) and warned that the health service was under ‘very real pressure’
NHS staff should be forced to have the jab BEFORE winter says former Health Secretary Matt Hancock
NHS workers should be forced to get two doses of the Covid vaccine before winter, disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today.
Mr Hancock — who quit in June after breaching his own social distancing rules by kissing a married colleague — said the move would act as another ‘tool to save lives’ during what is projected to be a harsh winter for the health service.
He also scorned NHS staff who are still not vaccinated and don’t have a valid medical reason, warning that it was their ‘moral duty’ and that they had ‘ignored all the scientific and clinical advice’.
Ministers have for weeks been considering whether to make Covid jabs compulsory within the health service after pushing through the requirement for care home workers in the summer.
But last week the Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to push back the plans until April after being warned by NHS bosses that introducing the policy now could leave hospitals understaffed at a crucial period.
There are also concerns about whether the move is even necessary, given that more than nine in 10 NHS staff are already vaccinated.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hancock, who was Health Secretary for three years, warned ministers against delaying compulsory vaccinations for the sector into the new year.
He said: ‘Having looked at all the evidence, I am now convinced we must require vaccination for everyone who works not just in social care but the NHS — and get it in place as fast as possible… So as we prepare to a face a difficult winter, let’s use all the tools we have to save lives.
‘Imagine the cancer patient, already battling another deadly disease, being cared for by a nurse. Who can put their hand on their heart and say they’d be happy to tell that patient their nurse could have the vaccine, but has chosen against all scientific and clinical advice to ignore it.’ Mr Hancock said doctors and nurses had a ‘moral duty’ to get the Covid vaccine to protect their patients.
‘The incident that you refer to — I think Amanda has corrected this. I think she was misunderstood in terms of the timings that she was talking about.
‘But of course this is such an important issue. We all need to be careful with what we say and the numbers we use and as I say that includes me.’
Ms Pritchard’s original claim was picked up and circulated by a number of mainstream, left-leaning news outlets including Sky News and The i.
She made the comments as she urged people to come forward for their booster vaccines and warned the health service was under ‘very real pressure’.
Professor Francois Balloux, director of the University College London Genetics Institute, described Ms Pritchard’s claim as ‘nonsense’ and criticised news organisations for not challenging it.
Other researchers warned that the NHS chief executive had ‘abused’ the figures while political commentators said it was either the result of ‘incompetence or mendacity’.
Speaking to Sky News about the current NHS pressure, Ms Pritchard said: ‘We have had 14 times the number of people in hospital with Covid than we saw this time last year.
‘We also had a record number of A&E attendance and a record number of 999 calls. As we look into winter, I think we’re very clear this is going to be a difficult winter.
‘And the things we encourage people to do is anything they can do to protect themselves, so that’s the Covid vaccine, it’s the flu vaccination in particular.’
NHS England claimed that the figures quoted by Ms Pritchard were in reference to a wider set of data that reflected pressures in August, and weren’t meant to reflect the current situation.
But the Government’s own Covid dashboard is based on hospital data provided by NHS England and goes up to November 5, slightly behind real time due to a recording lag.
Christopher Snowdon, from the rightwing think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said in a blog post: ‘The idea that NHS England does not have access to figures that are updated every day on the dashboard is preposterous.’
Assessing the true pressure of Covid on the NHS has been made difficult because medics argue that other pandemic factors — like social distancing and isolation rules — have a knock-on effect on their ability to treat non-Covid patients.
They are also under additional pressures due to the huge backlog that has amassed during the pandemic.
Neither the Government nor health chiefs have put a threshold on the number of admissions or inpatients that the NHS could handle this winter.
But Ms Pritchard herself admitted last month to MPs that the health service has never been overwhelmed during the pandemic, even in the depths of winter last year at the peak of the second wave.