Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi was sent out firefighting this morning, to reassure pundits of the government’s self-professed moonshot vaccination targets and pour cold water on a couple of stories in the papers today. Firstly Zahawi was pulled up on his maths by Sky’s Niall Paterson who pointed out that the two million doses a week Boris said may be possible will not be enough to hit the government’s desired 14 million vaccination target by mid-February. Zahawi “absolutely” accepted this point:
On the outrage-inducing Telegraph splash that Public Health England will not deliver Covid vaccines on Sundays – nor after agreed “cut-off points” every lunchtime, even if supplies are running low – Zahawi promises PHE will vaccinate 7 days per week: “they will work whatever days we need them, PHE will make sure that happens every single day, every vaccine delivery that we request will happen.”
The third vaccine story making waves today, feeding into the general sense the government is not working at the pace required, is the claimed snubbing by ministers of pharmacies’ offers to help roll out one million doses per week – being greeted by a “de facto silence”. On this Nadhim claims this is “not at all” the reality and community pharmacies are “coming online”, though there are dual focuses on optimising the sites already set up to administer the vaccine, as well as opening new sights such as pharmacies.
Zahawi comes across as sounding fairly on the ball – he’s got just over a month to prove it…
After a litany of failures by Public Health England throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, attention must turn to the unaccountable leadership of Duncan Selbie. When taking up the Chief Executive role upon the busybody quango’s founding in 2013, Guido’s archive digging has discovered that Selbie himself professed “you can fit my public health credentials on a postage stamp, but this is what I want to do for the next number of years because it matters so much.” Another stellar appointment by the UK’s ‘world-renowned’ civil service…
The 2013 article in the Lancet observes “Selbie’s career has been remarkable considering he has no medical or substantial academic qualifications”, with the newly-appointed Chief Executive claiming that because he was “not a public health professional… “I need to listen. That is the strength I uniquely bring”. Over the last few months, Selby’s great listening ability has led to:
What is it about appointing clueless Civil Service generalists to critical specialist roles? Incidentally, why does Matthew Gould still have a job at NHSX?
The Financial Times reports that PHE will be “toast” when the pandemic is over. Perhaps its future would be less uncertain had they appointed a CEO with an ounce of public health experience seven years ago…
Read the Lancet article in full below:
Matt Hancock has formally called for an “urgent review” into an emerging “staggering fiasco” with PHE’s Coronavirus death count, following the revelation that the quango has been counting people dying of other causes as COVID deaths if they tested positive at any time in the past – even if the person had already recovered from Coronavirus. It’s unclear how many deaths were recorded this way…
It’s thought the current daily average death rate of 72 could be inflated by almost 100%, and fewer than 40 people per day are actually dying from COVID. Another shocking pandemic failure from Public Health England if true…
In a new policy paper, the Adam Smith Institute has slammed Public Health England for its bureaucratic, centralised model of testing, and is urging the Government to rapidly learn from “Germany, South Korea, and more recently, the United States of America”, who have decentralised testing and embraced a mixture of public, non-government and private laboratories.
The ASI reveals that since March 16, the United Kingdom has just over doubled daily testing capacity. In the same time, the United States has increased daily testing by a factor of 21. That’s the date the US decentralised its testing regime and embraced private laboratories…
The research makes the compelling case that Public Health England’s early decision to centralise testing to a single PHE laboratory severely held the UK back. As of today in the UK, testing has been expanded to just twelve labs operated by PHE and a limited number of NHS laboratories. The paper says to catch up with successful testing nations, the UK must immediately:
fast-track approval for private sector laboratories to conduct COVID-19 testing;
substantially expand usage of NHS and university laboratories to conduct COVID-19 testing;
undertake rapid approval of private sector developed tests, including mutual recognition of tests approved by other regulatory bodies such as the FDA;
reduce testing red tape, including any requirements that initial positive tests must be retested centrally by PHE; and
explicitly call on companies to help make testing kits and develop lab capacity for COVID-19 testing, modelled on the successful call for businesses to make ventilators.
Author of the paper, the ASI’s Head of Research Matthew Lesh tells Guido that
“Public Health England has failed the nation. The early decision to centralise testing — initially to just a single lab and a single test — has had catastrophic consequences for human life…
They’ve repeatedly failed to take up offers from companies, universities and charities to help. Now we can’t even get NHS workers back to the front line. It has to change.”
Time to stop running away from the private sector. Embracing it will save lives…
Number 10 is at risk of continuing the last government’s public health fudge, as new sugar ban plans could lead to British favourites like jelly babies, dib dabs, boiled sweets, and fudge being made illegal. They can try prying Guido’s sherbet lemons from his cold, dead hands.
Ban-happy quango Public Health England have continued their crusade to make life miserable by recommending that no sweet should be allowed to be made of more than 50% sugar. The Institute of Economic Affairs has published a report denouncing PHE for their draconian proposals that are sure to leave a sour taste in people’s mouths.
Josie Appleton, the report’s author, said:
“These new food reformulation plans go way beyond even the existing Orwellian limits. There is a shocking lack of evidence behind them; it seems the main motivation for the changes is a belief the public are too infantile to make informed choices about their own diet so ‘improvements’ must be made for them.”
We don’t know Werther we’ve said it enough, Boris needs to tell PHE to suck it up.
This morning there are at least 35 British public sector representatives in sunny Cape Town on a massive taxpayer funded jolly. Starting today for 2 days it is the World Conference on Tobacco or Health Health – on the theme of “tobacco and social justice”. 3,000 anti-tobacco busy bodies expelling a lot of hot tobacco-free air…
Costs to attend the conference are $650 / £500. Flights from London to Cape Town are £2,500 with accommodation at £350 a night. Guido reckons that the taxpayers’ bill – not including salaries – will come in at nearly £150,000. Include salaries and expenses and it will hit nearer £250,000.
The UK attendees listed below include the Deputy Director from the Department of Health, Public Health England, ASH and academics from a dozen or so universities.
1. Jo Pullen – ActivMob (funded by local authorities)
2. Deborah Arnott – ASH (funded by Department of Health)
3. Anna Gilmore – Bath University
4. Dr Tim Baxter – Deputy Director Department of Health
5. Catherine Taylor – Fresh NE (funded by the 12 councils in the North East)
6. Filippos Filippidis – Imperial College London
7. Mohammed Jawad – Imperial College London
8. Ann McNeill – Kings College London
9. Saman Warnakulasuriya – Kings College London
10. Ruth Bell – Newcastle University
11. Rosanna O’Connor – Public Health England
12. Aleksandra Herbec – University College London
13. Andy Rowell – University of Bath
14. Lion Shahab – University of College London
15. Marisa de Andrade – University of Edinburgh
16. Jeffrey Colin – University of Edinburgh
17. Sarah Hill – University of Edinburgh
18. Jamie Pearce – University of Edinburgh
19. Amanda Amos – University of Edinburgh
20. Ilze Bogdanovica – University of Nottingham
21. Catherine Best – University of Stirling
22. Danielle Mitchell – University of Stirling
23. Fiona Dobbie – University of Stirling
24. Crawford Moodie – University of Stirling
25. Allison Ford – University of Stirling
26. Sally Haw – University of Stirling
27. Olalekan Uthman – University of Warwick
28. Kamran Siddiqi – University of York
29. Omara Dogar – University of York
30. Karen A. Evans – University of Bath
31. Mateusz Zatonski – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
32. Hilary Wareing – Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre (NHS funded)
33. Mona Kanaan – University of York
34. Robert Branston – University of Bath
35. Alisa Rutter – Fresh NE (funded by the 12 councils in NE England)
The Department of Health regularly provides grants to the universities listed above whilst the BEIS gave a collection of universities that make up the self-styled ‘Centre for Alcohol and Tobacco’ £3.4 million last year to research ‘tobacco related harm in Africa and Asia.’ Each of those universities in receipt of this funding is sending representatives to Cape Town so you can see how this is being funded. Cape Town this time of the year is a sunny 70 degrees, so this jolly it is a great chance to visit some of the local vineyards and top up your tan this winter whilst your university colleagues are striking on the picket line…