According to a Covid inquiry, Matt Hancock believed it was his responsibility to determine who would survive and who would not in the event of the NHS being overwhelmed. Updates on UK politics can be found here.

The National Health Service (NHS) was experiencing a high volume of patients and had to limit the amount of care provided.

Stevens stated that Matt Hancock believed ministerial authority should be responsible for making decisions about who would survive and who would not, if necessary.

Fortunately, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care did not have to make the ultimate decision on who should live and who should die in this situation, rather than leaving it to the medical profession or the public.

During the hearing, Stevens informs the attendees.

I wanted to make it clear that, unless absolutely necessary, a single secretary of state should not have the authority to determine how care is given.

In my opinion, the medical field has provided us with good service by involving patients as much as possible in making important decisions.

Simon Stevens giving evidence to Covid inquiry

Filters BETA

Bethan Harris, representative for the group Covid Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru, is currently inquiring about the release of patients from hospitals.

On March 11, Stevens stated that Matt Hancock determined that individuals leaving hospitals to enter care homes would not receive priority for testing. He claims that Hancock made this choice based on clinical guidance.

During that period, he stated that it was acknowledged that individuals could have Covid without showing symptoms. However, he also mentioned the uncertainty surrounding the frequency of such occurrences.

According to him, the courts have addressed this matter and ruled that it was justifiable for ministers to prioritize testing in the manner they did. However, he believes that care homes should have been provided with clearer instructions on isolating individuals being transferred from hospitals.

Her testimony regarding the appropriateness of PPE for females.

Extract from Helen MacNamara’s witness statement

Stevens agrees with MacNamara’s decision to address this matter. He states that the NHS was already addressing this matter at that time.

O’Connor inquires about the truth behind yesterday’s testimony that Stevens reassured Boris Johnson there was no issue when asked.

Stevens clarifies that his statement at the meeting was different from what is being quoted. He mentions that the minutes from the meeting can be accessed, and he cites them as evidence. The minutes document Stevens informing the PM that progress was being made on the project and that tests were being conducted to ensure that the personal protective equipment was suitable for women.

Rishi Sunak welcoming the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to the AI safety summit today.

O’Connor presents Stevens with a portion of Boris Johnson’s testimony, in which Johnson appears to suggest that he was compelled to impose a lockdown due to the NHS’s failure to address its capacity issue and bedblocking (where patients occupy space due to a lack of adult social care options outside of hospitals).

Johnson states the following:

It was extremely frustrating to consider that we were compelled to take extreme actions in order to lock down the nation and safeguard the NHS. This was due to the longstanding issue of delayed discharges, also known as bed blocking, which the NHS and social services had not effectively addressed. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, I regularly visited hospitals and discovered that approximately 30% of patients could have been discharged from acute sector beds.

Extract from Boris Johnson’s witness statement

Stevens agrees with Johnson’s statement that social care has been plagued with issues that have resulted in patients being unable to leave the hospital and return home. However, he continues by saying:

He and I were informed that failure to address the spread of coronavirus would result in a significant increase in hospitalizations, possibly reaching 200,000 or even 800,000 patients.

It is not accurate to claim that 30,000 blocked beds can handle 200,000 or 800,000 inpatients.

Even if all of those 30,000 beds were freed up – for every one coronavirus patient who was then admitted to that bed, there would be another five patients who needed that care but weren’t able to get it. So no, I don’t think that is a fair statement in describing the decision calculus for the first wave.

O’Connor is currently inquiring about conversations regarding potential actions to take in the event of the NHS becoming overwhelmed and the need for rationing care arises.

In his witness statement Stevens said Matt Hancock thought that, if decisions had to be taken about who would live and who would die, that should be a ministerial matter. He said:

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care believed that he, rather than the medical profession or the public, should have the final say in determining who should live and who should die in this scenario. Luckily, this difficult decision never had to be made.

Stevens informs the hearing:

I wanted to make it clear that it is not ideal for a single secretary of state to make decisions about care provision, except in rare cases.

I believe that the medical field has provided us with excellent care, in collaboration with patients, to the best of their abilities, when it comes to making such decisions.

Simon Stevens giving evidence to Covid inquiry


Was Hancock honest, in your opinion?

Stevens replies:

All I would say is strong accusations need strong evidence to back them up. And I don’t think I’ve seen that evidence.

O’Connor expresses doubt that Stevens is actively addressing the question. He makes another attempt.

Did you personally find Hancock to be someone you could trust?

Stevens agrees: “Generally, yes.”

When asked for clarification, Stevens elaborates:

I acknowledge that there were some instances of tension over the course of a year or so, which is not unexpected given the circumstances in which everyone was working.

Update: Ben Quinn has published the excerpt from Stevens’ statement on X.

Did anyone try to push you out of your job during the pandemic?

According to Stevens, that is not the statement he was receiving from others during that period.

O’Connor mentions a conversation between Matt Hancock, the Secretary of Health, and Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief advisor, where they talked about removing Stevens in January 2020.

Hancock/Cummings exchanges
Cummings/Hancock exchanges

Stevens reports that both Hancock and Cummings expressed their desire for him to remain after the onset of Covid.

According to O’Connor, paragraph 71 of Helen MacNamara’s statement is referenced. In this paragraph, MacNamara, who serves as deputy cabinet secretary, states that individuals in No 10 held an “idealistic and simplistic” view of the NHS. She further adds that no one in that setting possessed a thorough understanding of the NHS.

According to Stevens, there is validity in this statement.

Extract from Helen MacNamara’s witness statement

O’Connor provides additional evidence quoting Stevens’ statement about the necessity of financial assistance for individuals in isolation.

Stevens mentioned that he was relaying worries he had acquired.

Did you believe that there should be more assistance available for individuals who are self-isolating?

Stevens stated that was his personal perspective.

Government minute

According to O’Connor, the investigation has received testimony about challenges faced during the decision-making process and how the Prime Minister wavered between those decisions. What was your perspective?

According to Stevens, he did not play a role in making decisions regarding lockdown measures.

Did you have regular meetings with the PM?

Stevens stated that he would attend a meeting regarding the NHS. Subsequently, during subsequent meetings, choices were made based on the information they had acquired about the NHS.

Due to this, he is unable to provide a thorough analysis of the decision-making procedure.

Can you not say anything at all?

Stevens claims to have reviewed the current evidence, including some that was not accessible previously.

He mentions witnessing the decision-making process for implementing the vaccination program. Overall, there was productive discussion about necessary actions.

O’Connor explains that the topic will be addressed in the section on vaccines, which will be covered at a later point in the investigation.

Can you explain your involvement in crucial political decision making?

Stevens’ main focus was to guarantee that the NHS could care for both Covid patients and other patients in need of medical attention.

According to him, NHS England did not play a direct role in discussions about the necessity of lockdowns.

He claims to have participated in a few of the Cobra emergency meetings regarding Covid. However, he also mentions that the government eventually ceased utilizing Cobra for addressing Covid-related issues.

Can you clarify the meaning of “not optimally effective” in your statement regarding these meetings?

According to Stevens, the gatherings were excessively large and unproductive. Additionally, some ministers lacked complete autonomy in their decisions.

When Matt Hancock was leading them, there were instances where junior ministers from other departments attended.

Stevens is stating that there was no clear cause and effect relationship.

Can you clarify what you mean?

Stevens claims he is simply stating what he witnessed.

If the Prime Minister had been leading those meetings, would higher-ranking ministers have been present?

According to Stevens, had Boris Johnson been leading the meeting, it is possible that other secretaries of state would have also been present. However, Stevens is uncertain if this would have significantly impacted the decisions made.

Extract from Stevens’ witness statement

Simon Stevens is currently providing evidence at the Covid inquiry.

Andrew O’Connor, the KC representing the inquiry, is currently interrogating him.

The article starts by discussing NHS England and how it operates independently from the Department of Health and Social Care. O’Connor clarifies that Matt Hancock was not Steven’s direct superior. Stevens expresses that he often felt like he had multiple bosses.

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Stevens and Sir Chris Wormald, the permanent secretary of the Department of Health and Social Care, who will be speaking later this morning, are both expected to address these allegations.

I reviewed three articles analyzing the potential dangers of AI.

Rishi Sunak speaking to reporters this morning at the Bletchley Park AI safety summit.

The Bletchley declaration has been made, but the government has stated that they will not hastily implement regulations, resulting in the event not having an impact on UK laws. Labour has noticed a chance and is now stating that they would quickly enforce new regulations on companies dealing with cutting-edge AI technology.

The shadow secretary for science, Peter Kyle, stated:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the power to revolutionize our world and provide life-changing advantages for individuals in the workforce. By enabling early detection of cancer and alleviating traffic congestion, AI can bring about positive change.

In order to ensure these advantages, we must address the potential risks and establish trust with the public. Simply stating that our prime minister will not hastily make decisions is not sufficient, especially after warning the public about national security threats that could jeopardize our way of life. The AI summit provided a chance for the UK to take charge of the international discussion on effectively regulating this influential technology for positive purposes. However, the prime minister has fallen behind the progress made by the US and EU, who are implementing tangible measures to protect against potential dangers posed by this technology.

Labour has announced its plan in a statement, stating that:

The Labour party would promptly implement obligatory regulations for corporations working on advanced artificial intelligence. This would involve mandating the following:

• Submit your report prior to training models beyond a certain capability threshold.

• Perform safety assessment and testing on these designs, under the supervision of an independent entity.

• Ensure robust measures are in place for information security to prevent the unintentional dissemination of hazardous patterns.

This afternoon, we will receive further updates on the situation. However, this morning, the two highest-ranking NHS officials during the initial outbreak of coronavirus will provide testimony to the Covid investigation.

This is the schedule for today.

At 10am, Simon Stevens, the previous head of NHS England, provides testimony for the Covid investigation. Later in the morning, Sir Chris Wormald, the permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, also gives testimony.

At 10am, the London Assembly is questioning Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.

At midday, Humza Yousaf, the first minister of Scotland, holds a Q&A session with MSPs.

At 2pm, the Covid inquiry will hear from Prof Yvonne Doyle, who previously served as the medical director of Public Health England.

At approximately 4pm, Rishi Sunak will lead a press conference to conclude the AI safety summit held at Bletchley Park.

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