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 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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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