Manchester leaders accuse Matt Hancock of lying about coronavirus data

Emily Cleary
·4-min read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 5, 2020: Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the BBC before appearing on the Andrew Marr Show. London, Great Britain, 05 Jul 2020 David Nash / Barcroft Media- PHOTOGRAPH BY David Nash / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read David Nash/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Matt Hancock has rebuked claims that the government is not supplying adequate data on coronavirus testing to local authorities (David Nash/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Three Manchester MPs and the Salford city mayor have written to Matt Hancock accusing him of lying about coronavirus data.

Paul Dennett and co-signatories Rebecca Long Bailey, Barbara Keeley and Graham Stringer, wrote to the health secretary to demand more detail in the COVID-19 testing data that was sent to local councils.

The letter read: “We are writing to raise our concerns about your statements on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 5 July on which you stated that Councils had access to the COVID-19 data they need.

“This is simply not true.

We believe it is imperative that we are honest and transparent about the data on which we are relying to respond to the virus, whilst being accountable to and supporting our residents and local communities at this challenging and difficult time.”

The signatories suggested the health secretary had lied when he said local councils had all the data they needed (Salford City Mayor's Office)
The signatories suggested the health secretary had lied when he said local councils had all the data they needed (Salford City Mayor's Office)

The group asked for more information on test results, and faster information, and went on to slam the data released so far.

“Unfortunately this complex set of reports creates a complex labyrinth of information that is at best unhelpful and at worst dangerous,” the letter continued.

“The information falls far short of what we need to effectively prevent the spread of the virus and potential outbreaks... Unbelievably, information on ethnicity is not routinely provided, which is inexcusable given our understanding of the increased risk our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities face during this pandemic.

Mayor Paul Dennett and three MPs claimed government processes were "at best unhelpful and at worst dangerous" (Salford City Mayor's Office/Manchester Evening News)
Mayor Paul Dennett and three MPs claimed government processes were "at best unhelpful and at worst dangerous" (Salford City Mayor's Office/Manchester Evening News)

“There is also up to a week’s time daily [sic] between the test result and information reaching us locally – acting against timely intervention and prevention actions locally.”

Hancock’s comments on the Andrew Marr show came after a complaint by Andy Burnham that sufficient data was not being provided to councils by central government.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, attends a Transport for the North board meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Leeds. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has accused the government of hlding back inofrmation that could help stop the spread of coronavirus (Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)

The Manchester mayor said: "What we need is the real-time, patient-identifiable data that the Government receives rather than the limited, anonymised data we are currently getting.”

He added: "We also need reliable data from the national contact tracing system.

"One expert told me this week that the lack of patient-specific data was like local detectives being asked to solve crimes without being given the names of any of the victims or suspects.

"So my appeal to the Health Secretary is a simple one: give us everything you have got on Greater Manchester.

"Then we will be able to form a strong partnership between national and local government in beating this virus on the ground."

However, in a statement to Yahoo News UK, a spokesman for the department of health and social care rebutted many of the letter’s claims.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: A woman wears a face mask as she leaves Piccadilly train station on March 19, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. People have been encouraged to work from home and socially distance themselves due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Manchester MPs have pleaded for more data from the government to help prevent a second wave of coronavirus (Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

The spokesman addressesed the “misleading or inaccurate claims”.

He said: “All councils in England can now access positive case testing data right down to an individual and postcode level.

“Our priority is to ensure all local and public health bodies have the data they need and we will continue to support them so they can effectively deal with any outbreaks.”

In response to the claim that public health directors are not receiving any information from the central NHS track-and-trace system other than where specific settings or complex cases have been identified as a problem, he said: “This is not correct. Public Health England began providing anonymised positive test data for individuals, including postcodes, to Local Authorities (including Directors of Public Health) on the 24 June.

“From 11 June, NHS Digital (with the support of the Department) made available an operational data dashboard – including counts of total tests, total positives and total voids per local authority - to Directors of Public Health. This was to support Directors of Public Health and Local Councils’ operational needs while more detailed data sharing was being put in place. As of this week, this contains an even lower granularity of data.”

In response to claims that only limited ethnicity data was being reported back, he said: “We began collecting data on ethnicity from 21 May... which includes a ‘prefer not to say’ option as you would normally expect with this type of question.”

Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.