Matt Hancock's NHS message backfires after appearing in hospital without a face mask

Health minister Matt Hancock at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading

Health minister Matt Hancock at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading - Credit: Twitter

Matt Hancock has found himself at the centre of intense criticism after a video of him promoting government policy in a hospital seriously backfired.

Hancock failed to notice he was breaking government guidelines when he was filmed at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading promoting a new review into food standards across the NHS without a face mask.

According to the government's website, it is mandatory to wear a face covering in "NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings".

But the health minister seemed to have let that regulation drop by the wayside when he posted the 71-second clip on Twitter.

"I have come to the Royal Berkshire Hospital here in Reading to launch the review into hospital food that has been headed up by Prue Leith along with a brilliant professional team," he is seen saying.

Hancock had been touring the hospital to promote a review into food standards by Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith that was launched after a deadly outbreak of Listeriosis, a form of infections caused by eating contaminated food, occurred in hospitals last year.

MORE: Brexiteer Prue Leith quits Tory Party after government votes down motion to protect UK food standards

The health minister continued: "There are some hospitals like this one where the food is nutritious and is really tasty and we want that to be the norm right across the country.

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"We want to make sure the food is part of your recovery when you're in hospital and is something that you can really look forward to."

He added: "We're building 40 new hospitals and these hospitals will have first-class catering built into them - making sure hospital food is part of people's recovery."

Labour slammed the minister. A spokesperson for the party said: "Matt Hancock should be setting an example by wearing face coverings in the NHS.

"This is a pandemic, not a PR stunt."

This is the second time in a week the health minister was spotted without a face mask. Hancock was pictured last Monday in his ministerial limousine arriving at the Department of Health and Social Care without a face covering.

Although passengers of chauffer-driven care are exempt from face mask regulations, Downing Street has advised all ministers to cover up regardless.

A source close to the Health Secretary said he was “filmed in a socially distanced way” during the hospital clip and that he “wore a mask for the rest of the visit”.

People on Twitter were less forgiving.

Disability rights campaigner Sue Groves MBE tweeted: "In a hospital, without a mask? Way to set a good example @MattHancock! Not!"

Amy Prescott wrote: "Matt Hancock PR stunting at a hospital today not wearing a mask, yet my husband can’t come to maternity appointments with me?! Not to mention the irony of him tweeting about food being vital to people after what they’ve done the last few days regarding FSM (free school meals)."

Trish Jordan wrote: "We have a perfectly good hospital here in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, just needs the closed wards opening up again and staff to run them...this would be considerably cheaper and make more sense than having to build a new one in this vicinity."

@Mattersofmymind said: "Don't worry when you're laying on a bed in a corridor for 12 hours waiting to be seen by a&e because the hospitals have been depleted, a private contractor will cook you a nice meal of chlorinated chicken soup."

"Course you will just as soon as you’ve that world class Track & Trace up and running the one we’ve spent £12 billion quid on and there is nothing to show for it!," pointed out Rhona Welsh.

Some tweeted messages of support.

Andrea Smith said: "It’s a no brainer, healthy food, promotes recovery and wellbeing, not to mention investment in jobs for chefs, cooks and variety of other staff!"

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