As the Prime Minister said, we go into this winter in much better shape than the last. Unfortunately, there are coronaholics in the media who are loathe to spread comfort and joy. Their work will not be done until Christmas is cancelled and Santa is distributing lateral flow tests instead of presents.
Last week, the BBC got off to a flying start with a report featuring a doctor in a Nottingham Intensive Care Unit. The doctor reported that his unit was already under severe Covid pressure and things were going to get worse. Really? Even though the number of Covid patients in hospital has been flat for the past two months and cases are falling?
So annoyed was I by this first wave of winter scaremongering that I texted "George", Planet Normal 's senior source in NHS England with access to the very latest data. "Is Nottingham ITU really under pressure?" I asked.
Within minutes, a reply came back. "One of Nottingham's hospitals is reporting a high level of Covid pressure," George said, "but the other two hospitals in Nottingham are both green so clearly they are load balancing very well across their three sites. There really isn't an issue. It is so irresponsible of the BBC to pick out the exceptions and present them as the rule."
It really is. Totally irresponsible. I'm afraid this is what we have come to expect of the BBC and other broadcasters during the pandemic. One of their favourite tricks is to film in hospitals on a Monday when wards are fullest, because there are no discharges over the weekend. By the time the camera crew has packed up, a large number of fully recovered Covid patients will have been sent home, but you can bet Chief Pallbearer Hugh Pym won't mention that.
The toll that Pym's sepulchral mien and shroud-waving reports have taken on the mental health of this country is incalculable. We can expect more of the same over the coming weeks. NHS managers, who have done shamefully little to prepare for respiratory virus season plus Covid, will be keen to scare people away from hospitals by exaggerating the crisis.
I don't know about you, but I've had enough of this doom porn. The PM and the Health Secretary have both said that it is the risk of the NHS being "overwhelmed" which will trigger another lockdown . There are forces among government scientific advisers and NHS management that would be delighted to see that happen. Lockdown is win-win for them.
I reckon the British people deserve a true picture of what is happening. So I asked George to do Telegraph readers a service. If you see a TV report about a hospital in your region being in trouble, George has agreed to give me the exact bed occupancy figures. Plus Covid discharges and the number of patients who caught the virus in hospital – a figure which is still rolled into "Covid admissions", probably to present as bleak a picture as possible and obscure the lack of infection control.
I will then share that data with you in this column. Hopefully, it will be more reassuring than Hugh Pym – but, then, what isn't?
Please do email me your George requests at [email protected] . Let's stand up to the coronaholics and save Christmas. Fight fear with facts!
Listen to Planet Normal , a weekly Telegraph podcast featuring news and views from beyond the bubble, using the audio player within this article, or subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts , Spotify or your preferred podcast app.
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