‘Nonsense’ NHS Chief Accused of Spreading Fake News About Coronavirus Hospitalisations

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: A NHS billboard in Stamford Hill on April 8, 2020 in London, England. The Jewish community is preparing to celebrate Passover amid COVID-19 home isolation and social distancing measures. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
Hollie Adams/Getty Images

The recently installed CEO of NHS England has been accused of spreading “nonsense” fake news about the rate of coronavirus hospitalisations after she claimed that 14 times more people are hospitalised with the Chinese virus than last year.

Amanda Pritchard, who became the first female chief of the NHS in England after taking over for Lord Stevens in August, told Sky News on Monday that there is “14 times the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 than we saw this time last year.”

If the statement from the NHS chief was true, then there would be approximately 154,000 people currently hospitalised with the Wuhan virus, four and a half times the actual record of 34,366 on January 18th of this year and more people than there are hospital beds in the whole of England.

Ultimately, the NHS was forced to backtrack on the claim, as the latest government data has shown that as of November 5th, there were 7,072 COVID-19 patients in hospitals in England. This is compared to 10,994 on the same date last year, meaning hospitalisations are actually considerably down.

In a clarification, the health body said that Pritchard had meant to compare the figures from August and the same month last year when only 1,629 people were hospitalised in contrast to 22,877 in 2021.

The NHS went on to claim that Pritchard was citing the latest available data, however, government data on hospitalisations is updated daily on its coronavirus dashboard, which is supplied with information from the NHS.

The director of the University College London Genetics Institute, Professor Francois Balloux told The Telegraph that Ms Pritchard’s statement was “nonsense”.

Colin Angus, a statistician at the University of Sheffield, said per The Times: “This is outrageous misuse of statistics from the chief executive of the NHS.”

Pritchard has faced calls from several figures since the claim. The UK health Secretary Sajid Javid has also since warned “We all need to be careful” when it comes to quoting figures.

Conservative MP Chris Green, a member of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, said that that the fake news risks undermining the public’s trust in the government’s justification for restrictions.

“One of the defining problems since the beginning of the pandemic and [in] the lockdown approach to handling it has been the control of statistics.

“We have never had a full impact assessment published that ministers and officials can be challenged upon, that justifies the loss of liberty but also where people can find reassurance that we are on the right track.”

The scandal comes as NHS figures are campaigning for the reintroduction of lockdown measures to prevent the socialised healthcare system from being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients during the winter months.

The chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor said last month that the government should enact its “Plan B” lockdown restrictions warning that “health service is right at the edge”. He went on to say that the government should prepare a “Plan C” if vaccine passports and mask mandates are not sufficient to slow the spread of the virus.

On Sunday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that Britain may be able to avoid a repeat of last year’s Christmas lockdown if enough people come forward to take a coronavirus booster shot. Javid said that the booster campaign should be seen as a “national mission”.

“If we all come together and play our part, we can get through this challenging winter, avoid a return to restrictions and enjoy Christmas,” he said.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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