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Hancock: ‘Staff should feel free to speak out over coronavirus fears’

PUBLISHED: 09:04 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:48 22 April 2020

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock arriving at Downing Street, London Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock arriving at Downing Street, London Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said staff should be free to speak out over the coronavirus crisis – as trusts in his region told workers to avoid certain subjects on social media.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, which serves Mr Hancock’s West Suffolk constituency, sent out social media guidance to staff telling them to avoid tweeting about “political issues” such as PPE, testing and exit strategies.

The mental health trust faced a backlash from campaigners and staff, who felt they were being “gagged”.

MORE: Backlash as NHS staff told: ‘Avoid tweeting about political issues like PPE’

But at the government’s press conference last night, the health secretary said he had seen people tweeting about having good levels of PPE and about issues with it, describing both as “totally normal”.

“People should be able to talk about problems that there are and indeed they do,” he said.

“I’ve seen both fantastic examples of people saying that they are working hard and going public with the work they are doing and the conditions they are working under.

“I’ve also seen some people for instance saying they are delighted that there is good PPE and we have also seen people who are saying there is a problem in that area.”

MORE: All the latest coronavirus news in your area

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital also told its staff on Monday to not put anything on social media about PPE or the hospital after what they described as “inappropriate” posts by staff.

Mr Hancock added: “I think that’s totally normal and standard and people should feel free to talk about what happens at work.

“I think that transparency is important and it’s the sort of approach we’ve tried to take as a government, including with press conferences like these.”

Personal protective equipment for staff (PPE) has been an ongoing concern during the coronavirus crisis, workers branding national coronavirus protection advice ‘woefully inadequate’, and care home owners having to triple their spend on PPE to keep workers safe.

The Government said an RAF plane landed at Brize Norton from Turkey in the early hours of today, after being sent to collect a shipment of PPE – including badly-needed surgical gowns.

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