England’s top nurse dropped from daily briefings after refusing to back Dominic Cummings

Chief nursing officer Ruth May with health secretary Matt Hancock at the Downing Street briefing. Ph

Chief nursing officer Ruth May with health secretary Matt Hancock at the Downing Street briefing. Photograph: Downing Street. - Credit: Archant

The chief nursing officer for England was reportedly dropped from Downing Street daily briefings after refusing to support Dominic Cummings for breaking lockdown rules.

According to the Independent, Ruth May was asked for her views on Boris Johnson's adviser and the controversy surrounding his Durham visit and was subsequently dropped when she declined to support him.

The incident, which happened on June 1, saw Professor John Newton from Public Health England appear alongside Hancock instead.

An NHS source told the newspaper: 'A No 10 spad (special adviser) asked her directly how she would answer the Dominic Cummings question and she refused to play along and told them she would answer the same way as Jonathan Van-Tam. She was dropped immediately from the press briefing.'

Another added: 'JVT was the first to publicly push back on TV. Everyone is being asked to support the government positions prior to doing a press conference. If they don't, they get dropped.

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'First it was Dominic Cummings, then easing lockdown and now the R-rate and the two-metre rule.'

Dr Van-Tam, England's chie f deputy medical officer, has not appeared at a Downing Street press conference since he spoke out against Cummings.

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Asked about the controversy, he said: 'Thank you for the question and I'm quite happy to answer it. In my opinion, the rules are clear and they have always been clear. In my opinion, they are for the benefit of all and in my opinion they apply to all'.

It was reported that both the chief medical and scientific officers for England Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance refused to do a press conference shortly after Dominic Cummings' Rose Garden statement at Downing Street.

They arrived for the briefing only to leave Number 10 shortly after.

Downing Street denied the claims that May had been dropped over her views on Cummings and said that health and scientific advisers would continue to appear during the briefings.

At the latest briefing, transport minister Grant Shapps told a journalist he 'did not believe it is true', pointing to a tweet he said was 'pinned' to a Downing Street Twitter feed to suggest she was still an active contributor.

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