COVID-19 disparities report- Missing pages and unconvincing ministers
One of the biggest (and most timely) stories from a busy week of news has been the debate over the missing pages from a report on Covid-19 disparities. The missing pages detailed much needed recommendations to protect black, Asian and minority ethnic communities from coronavirus, as these communities have been much harder hit by the disease than other comparable white communities.
The original Public Health England report did not contain the recommendations, and ministers gave the explanation that some of the data was not available. This was challenged by medical professionals, including some who had had visibility of the report, who criticised the apparent excising of these pages from the report. The recommendations have subsequently come to light and been welcomed by clinicians, with one commenting that the recommendations were “absolutely excellent”.
The saga illustrates key points for consultors about both preparedness and transparency. The period between the story first emerging and the eventual publication of the report was characterised by ministerial appearances in both parliament and the regular press conferences where ministers failed to provide any convincing explanations for why the data was missing. Perhaps more importantly from a process point of view, there seems to have been a clear breach of the basic principle that if you ask, you must publish.