Matt Hancock under fire as controversial details about his time as health minister have been revealed

According to an investigation by The Telegraph, Matt Hancock made a range of controversial decisions during his time as the health secretary.

Matt Hancock ignored expert advice on Covid testing in care homes, according to leaked messages
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Matt Hancock ignored expert advice on Covid testing in care homes, according to leaked messages

Matt Hancock found himself in the middle of yet another controversy after a journalist leaked WhatsApp messages that allegedly exposed him of ignoring expert advice on Covid-19 testing in care homes and helping fellow Tories get tested before others when the country was facing the testing kit shortages.

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The former health minister and I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! contestant categorically denies any accusations and says that the story is spun to ‘fit an anti-lockdown agenda’.

What was the Cover expert advice for care homes?

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An investigation by The Telegraph claims England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, told Hancock, the then health secretary, in April 2020 that ‘all [people] going into care homes’ should be tested and recommended ‘segregation whilst awaiting result’.

According to leaked messages published by the newspaper, Hancock rejected the guidance, telling an aide the move ‘muddies the waters’. Instead, he introduced mandatory testingfor those coming from the hospital.

In Hancock’s WhatsApp exchange with Whitty, the health secretary reportedly described the chief medical officer’s advice as ‘obviously a good positive step’.

But he later responded to an aide:

Tell me if I’m wrong but I would rather leave it out and just commit to testing & isolate ALL going into care from a hospital. I do not think the community commitment adds anything and it muddies the waters.

Further messages reveal Hancock was concerned that expanding care home testing could ‘get in the way’ of the 100,000 daily Covid testing target he was desperate to hit. He was eager to meet his self-set goal and asked his former boss, George Osborne, the then editor of the Evening Standard newspaper, for front-page coverage.

Osborne agreed and Hancock later added:


When there was a backlog in testing, an adviser to Hancock reportedly helped to send a Covid test to the home of Jacob Rees-Mogg in September 2020, leaked messages published in the newspaper claim.

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Matt Hancocks dismisses all accusations

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The ex-health minister categorically denies claims he ignored expert advice as ‘distorted’ and ‘spun to fit anti-lockdown agenda’

Hancock accused The Telegraph of using ‘stolen messages [that] have been doctored to create a false story’ and described the newspaper’s investigation as a ‘distorted account’.

A spokesperson for Hancock said:

On 14 April Matt received a response to his request for advice from the chief medical officer that testing was needed for people going into care homes, which he enthusiastically accepted.
Later that day he convened an operational meeting on delivering testing for care homes where he was advised it was not currently possible to test everyone entering care homes, which he also accepted.
Matt concluded that the testing of people leaving the hospital for care homes should be prioritised because of the higher risks of transmission, as it wasn’t possible to mandate everyone going into care homes got tested.

Accordion to Hancock, the messages were ‘doctored’ by excluding key exchanges about a meeting at which advice on deliverability was given. By omitting this, the messages imply he simply overruled clinical advice.

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Hancock is advised to get the messages 'out there'

WhatsApp messages were leaked by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott who received them while working on Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries memoir. The writer claims she did it because it would take ‘many years’ before the end of the official Covid inquiry, which she claimed could be a ‘colossal whitewash’.

Commenting on the claim, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Daisy Cooper, said:

This is yet more evidence that it’s one rule for Conservative ministers and another for everyone else. The Covid inquiry must look into reports Conservative ministers were able to get priority access to tests at a time of national shortage.

Matt Hancock is facing the call to publish all of his WhatsApp messages from the coronavirus pandemic following the revelations but he argues that the formal coronavirus inquiry is the ‘proper place for analysis’ of the decisions which were made at the time.

But Lord Bethell, who was in post during the pandemic, said Hancock should get his messages ‘out there’ now.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme:

It is not really up to us I’m afraid. We are victims of the system here. I certainly think Matt should just publish his WhatsApps and get them out there.

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Sources used:

- The Guardian: 'Matt Hancock denies claims he rejected Covid care home testing advice'

- The Telegraph: 'The Lockdown Files: Matt Hancock should publish all his pandemic WhatsApp messages, says former health minister'

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