Covid-19: Transparency and Accuracy of Statistics

Debate between Lord Desai and Lord Bethell
Monday 9th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, we are grateful to the Office for Statistics Regulation for its challenge; its points were perfectly reasonable and we take them on board completely. However, I reject the characterisation made by my noble friend and his suggestion that the modelling is either political or erroneous in some way. I remind him that, in January, the modelling showed that the epidemic in China was considerably larger than anything reported at the time. In February and March, we used data from the “Diamond Princess” and elsewhere to show how the threat of Covid was much larger than had previously been understood. In March, we showed that the epidemic in the UK was doubling every three to four days, allowing us to make the difficult decision to lock down. Throughout the spring, the modelling demonstrated that half the UK had not been infected, as previously thought.

In mid-September, the modelling showed that we were at the start of a second wave, despite those who said that there was no evidence of it. It also showed that the uptick in cases involving younger people would spread to older adults and, as a result, into healthcare. Most recently, the six-week projections of SPI-M that were produced throughout October, based on contemporary trends, have been remarkably accurate at assessing the trajectory of hospital admissions and deaths.

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the fact is that the public have lost trust in scientists and science. They lost trust in government long ago. Is it not time for the Government to ask the Royal Society to carry out a thorough check and review of every statistic released by SAGE or any other government adviser so that we can be sure that the statistics are presented properly, are sound and are not exaggerated so as to mislead the public?

Covid-19: Test Results

Debate between Lord Desai and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 27th October 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I am distressed to hear the anecdote that the noble Lord has just shared with us. We embrace the support and help of anyone who steps forward, particularly someone such as Mr Wilson, who clearly has an enormous amount of expertise. I would be delighted if he would write to me personally and I would be very prepared to meet him. I would also like give massive thanks to all those from all the relevant logistical, pathology, military and medical sciences who have formed an organisation practically the size of Tesco, which is what the national diagnostic system now looks like. It is only with the support of British industry, universities and business that we have been able to build this up and we are enormously grateful for that support.

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we have had continuous failure of test and trace since March. Again and again, we are missing the targets. Why? Is it the equipment, the personnel or the management structure that is causing this failure of our efforts?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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I am not sure that I can answer the false premise. Actually, test and trace has enormous achievements—the isolation of 1 million people who would potentially have spread the disease is the most glaringly obvious—but we are here to talk about turnaround times and there, I completely accept that the current performance is not where it should be. I have sought to explain the reasons for that, and the enormous increase in capacity in the last 60 days. I have also sought to explain the measures we are putting in place to mitigate that. I am confident that those measures will be successful, and I am happy to report back to the House on them

Covid-19: NHS Long-term Plan

Debate between Lord Desai and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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I completely agree. It is a grave shame that too many diagnoses happen late. We are proud of our acute care, but it is this Government’s mission to move to a priority around early intervention which will have a huge impact on the quality and length of people’s lives and make modern healthcare more affordable. The noble Baroness is entirely right that respiratory interventions are an important priority.

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is not good enough just to praise NHS staff. Will the Government commit to spending a certain percentage of GDP on health as soon as possible? I suggest that 12% of GDP should be spent on health; then we would not have a repetition of this disaster.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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We do not just stand and praise. We are recruiting a huge number of new staff—50,000 more nurses and more GPs—and we invest in them through our people plan.

Independent Residential Care

Debate between Lord Desai and Lord Bethell
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
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The noble Baroness makes her case well. There are a large number of considerations in this matter—my noble friend Lord Forsyth has already made a strong case for the recommendations of the Economic Affairs Committee—and we need to look at all of them. It is an extremely complicated area. We need to get buy-in from cross-party support and from a wide number of stakeholders and the businesses involved. Once we are in that position, we will be able to make a plan that delivers a long-term solution to this knotty problem.

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we must welcome Sir Simon Stevens’ promise to help independent care providers, but will we make sure that when the money goes to those providers they pay their staff properly, give them protective equipment and do not let them go on working in an unsafe and underpaid profession?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell [V]
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My Lords, the role of the staff is essential. We have put in place an infection fund of £500 million to help to provide a safe working environment for staff, and we are looking at mobilising a huge PPE effort, led by my noble friend Lord Deighton. The protection and payment of staff are essential. However, a long-term solution for staff will depend on a long-term deal. We are working on that but I cannot give any assurances until the important work of building cross-party support has been fulfilled.