Matt Hancock, the former UK Health Secretary, has reportedly sought legal immunity for his department’s failure to protect care home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The revelation comes days after his WhatsApp messages were leaked to the public, causing a media uproar. In a talk over his book, the Pandemic Diaries, he reportedly told lawyers that he should not bear responsibility for the department’s failures simply because he was the Secretary of State.
Blaming the Whole Government
Instead, he argued that the whole government should take the blame for the department’s actions. According to MSN, he tried to defend himself against the idea that the head of a government department should be held accountable for its actions. He dismissed the notion, saying that it would only be “chasing tabloid headlines.”
WhatsApp Messages and Denials
Days after the talk, Mr. Hancock’s WhatsApp messages were leaked to the Telegraph by Isabel Oakeshott, to whom he had sent transcripts to help ghostwrite his book. In the messages, he appears more concerned with the public perception of his policies than their effectiveness in saving lives during the pandemic. He denies claims that the texts suggest he ignored Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty’s advice to test all people going into care homes.
Departmental Policies Ruled Unlawful
However, Mr. Hancock’s department’s policy of discharging untested patients into care homes from hospitals was ruled unlawful by the High Court in April in a case brought by Dr. Cathy Gardner, who lost her father. In the messages, Mr. Hancock also said that committing to testing people coming into care homes from the community, including staff, did not “add anything” and would only “muddy the waters.”
Mr. Hancock’s attempt to seek legal immunity for his department’s failures in protecting care home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked public outrage. His WhatsApp messages, which suggest that he was more concerned about the public perception of his policies than their effectiveness in saving lives, have only added fuel to the fire. While he has denied ignoring advice from the Chief Medical Officer, his department’s policies have been deemed unlawful by the High Court. It remains to be seen what consequences he will face for his actions.