The former chair of the health and liaison committees says this is the only way to restore public trustby Sarah Wollaston / June 3, 2020 / Leave a comment
As if the disastrous undermining of public health by Dominic Cummings was not bad enough, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, David Norgrove, has this week published an excoriating rebuke to the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock. His calm wording is in sharp contrast to its scathing criticism of the way government spin has not only needlessly confused the facts but is actively getting in the way of efforts to control the spread of the virus.
Norgrove’s letter sets out the dual purpose of testing statistics, which should not only be to help us understand the epidemic but to help manage the testing programme to make sure that there are enough tests, that they are carried out where needed and used as effectively as possible.
Instead “the aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests even at the expense of understanding.” Ouch. The statistics are being rendered incomprehensible and meaningless.
It doesn’t need to be this way and the secretary of state knows it. He has signed up to the code of practice for statistics but doesn’t seem prepared to apply it to his handling of the greatest public health emergency of our time. People have had enough of being duped and it is undermining trust and support for vital life-saving measures when these could not be more important.
It is time for the public health officials and advisers who flank ministers at the daily briefings to insist on clarity and the independence that their offices should command. It matters because trust lies at the heart of the public being prepared to listen, let alone adhere to rules which have a major impact on their daily lives. Just as we emerge from lockdown, getting a call from a stranger instructing you to stay at home and self-isolate for a further fortnight will be a tough ask, especially where that involves even longer separation from loved ones and financial pain.
What on earth are contact tracers to say to those who, like Cummings, want to pop back to their workplace first or to travel hundreds of miles with someone who is unwell to have relatives on hand in case they also become sick?
Even the mortality data presented at the daily…