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Wednesday 1 July 2020

Nadine Dorries And A Covid Data Farce

Labour MP Justin Madders, who represents Ellesmere Port and Neston, has plenty on his plate right now: the uncertain future of the Vauxhall plant, the possibility that some of his constituents who work over the border at Broughton’s Airbus operation may be some of the 1,700 in the UK to lose their jobs, and the possibility of more Coronavirus flare-ups on his patch with following relaxing of lockdown rules, and more.
So he really didn’t need the distraction of reading the shocking feedback to a written question put to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care back in mid-May. The request to Matt Hancock and his team was “To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the contract with Deloitte for Covid-19 testing requires that company to report positive cases to Public Health England and to local authorities”.
The reply came from (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, and yes, it must be remembered that she is now a minister. “As an existing professional service provider to the public sector, Deloitte’s expertise is being used to supplement in-house resource to deliver significant programmes of work, which currently includes the national response to COVID-19”. The driving it round the houses tells you bad news is on its way.
How bad was it? “The contract with Deloitte does not require the company to report positive cases to Public Health England and local authorities”. That bad. The question has to be asked as to what the point of the testing is in the first place.
Maybe there was a Data Protection excuse coming down the track? But Madders had seen enough. “The idea that Data Protection is stopping testing information going to councils is for the birds - this is the real reason, they didn’t put it in the contracts in the first place!” Ms Dorries didn’t write the contract, but one might think she would realise what she just let slip. There’s nothing on her Twitter feed today about it.
Plenty of other observers had something to say, though, such as John Harris of the Guardian: “This is such a shambles, with huge consequences”. Steve Peers of the University of Essex added “Data protection law excuses are BS - health data can be processed if necessary for public health purposes”. And in this case should have been.
David Bailey of Birmingham Business School had seen this before. “Another case of an outsourcing firm running rings round the public sector in contract design and specification. How many times have we been here?” And Anthony Costello of UCL concluded “Not just a shambles...but public health malpractice. This decision threatens the safety and lives of populations all over the country”. Yet another Tory shambles.
Only this shambles has potentially deadly consequences. Directly deadly consequences. The reopening of the economy consists of, effectively, flying blind if those making the decisions do not have sight of the relevant data. With all the consequences that implies.

Heads should roll over this foul-up. Sadly, though, this Government doesn’t do resigning.
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