Hancock’s Worst Hour
At what stage does someone take the blame for the debacle that has been 2020? The unseemly scramble to ready the NHS for a respiratory disease that has been long forecast was unseemly at best, chaotic at worst. So why has Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care since 2018 faced such little criticism?
Apart from a brief spell working for his father’s software firm, his entire career has been in the murky world of politics. He has never known what it is like to have a job in the real world, with all the uncertainty we have now particularly. Ironically, his degree at Exeter College, Oxford was in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)
The National Audit Office have now said that stockpiles of personal protective equipment (PPE) were inadequate for the Covid-19 pandemic and price rises earlier this year cost taxpayers about £10bn, with a particular shortage of gloves and aprons. Meanwhile, the stockpile, as well as having shortages of some key items, did not include any gowns or visors despite the fact they had been “recommended for inclusion” in June 2019 by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag)”.
A previous study of requirements had been made in 2016. Neither had been acted on by a Conservative government pleading austerity. Yet their failure to act, not only endangered lives, but has now also caused a sharp increase in government debt. Hancock can’t be held responsible for the first eight years of Conservative-led governments, but for the last spending review on required equipment, the buck stops firmly outside his door.
The government said the NAO’s report recognised that the NHS had received what it needed in time. Yes they did, just about, but at huge cost. Almost £12.5bn was launched on 32bn items of PPE from February to July 2020. Last year, in the same period, 1.3bn items were bought for just £28.9m.
Criticism will grow as the sheer scale of deaths become apparent – not from Covid, but from all the diseases that were not treated – cancer, coronary issues, strokes, etc. Diabetics went undiagnosed, suicides increased 70% and Nightingale Hospitals were left unstaffed.
Once again, we see the problems caused by the health service being in thrall to politicians. Politicians of the past failed to invest National Insurance and the result is a giant ponzi scheme that can never be sustained. For that, at least, Hancock is not to blame, but for the chaos of this year, he should not only go, but never be allowed on the corridors of power again.
Martin Day – Party Secretary