Politics

NHS chief’s awkward silence when asked if Matt Hancock is ‘hopeless’

The silence was deafening when the chief of NHS England was asked if he agreed that health secretary Matt Hancock is “hopeless”.

Sir Simon Stevens was asked repeatedly if he has confidence in Mr Hancock’s ability but declined to answer.

Pressed by Sky News political editor Beth Rigby on whether the health secretary is “hopeless,” Sir Simon can be seen to smirk and fail to answer.

“I mean, that is a political question,” he says.

It comes after former aide Dominic Cummings published text messages from Boris Johnson in which the prime minister appeared to describe Mr Hancock as “totally f***ing hopeless”.

In a blog post exceeding 7,000 words, Mr Cummings also published another private message about the struggles to procure ventilators for Covid-19 patients.

“It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless,” a contact appearing to be Mr Johnson replied on 27 March last year.

In another message, on 27 April last year, the prime minister appeared to call the situation around personal protective equipment (PPE) “a disaster” and alluded to diverting some responsibilities to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

“I can’t think of anything except taking Hancock off and putting Gove on,” Mr Johnson apparently added.

Mr Hancock has denied the Brexit campaigner’s allegations and said last week it was “telling” that he was yet to provide the joint Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee with written evidence.

When he appeared before the same committee last week, Mr Hancock said he had seen no evidence to suggest any medics died because of a lack of PPE.

But Mr Cummings said in his blog post that the health secretary sought to blame Sir Simon, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the Cabinet Office for a “PPE disaster” in April last year.

Mr Cummings alleged: “The lack of PPE killed NHS and care home staff in March-May.”

He said the initial post shows that “No10/Hancock have repeatedly lied about the failures last year” and accused them of now trying to “rewrite history”.

Sir Simons is due to step down as head of NHS England at the end of July.

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