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Chief nursing officer for England Ruth May has confirmed to MPs that she was “dropped” from a government press briefing in June.
Ms May did not verify it was because she refused to back the actions of the prime minister’s chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, as previously alleged.
However, during a Commons’ public accounts committee evidence session today, the CNO stated her beliefs that lockdown rules “were clear” and they “applied to us all”.
Ms May had been due to appear at the Downing Street coronavirus press conference on 1 June alongside health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.
However, reports later emerged that Ms May was cut because she would not “play along” and back Mr Cummings, who caused uproar in May when his 260-mile trip to Durham during lockdown came to light.
This afternoon, during the evidence session on nursing, the committee’s chair and Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier, asked Ms May if reports that she had been dropped on 1 June were correct.
In response, Ms May said: “It is indeed true that I was dropped from a briefing but that happens to many of my colleagues and that is a regular occurrence.”
“In my opinion the rules were clear, and they are there for everyone’s safety and they applied to us all”
She then highlighted that she had been invited to another briefing later in June but had “got stuck in traffic”, as previously reported by Nursing Times.
Ms Hillier continued to quiz Ms May on the specific incident on 1 June and asked why she was cut from the briefing.
In reply, the CNO said: “I don’t know why I was dropped, chair. I do know though that I was prepared to go to Number 10 at a later date.”
The Labour MP then asked Ms May if she was asked to “defend the actions of one of the prime minister’s senior advisors” during a preparation session for the press conference.
In response, Ms May said: “As in all press briefings, we talk about lots of these preparation questions and, yes, of course I was asked about lockdown and rules to lockdown.”
Ms Hiller then asked for the CNO’s “views to lockdown and the actions of Dominic Cummings at that time”.
“I believe that, in my opinion, the rules were clear, and they are there for everyone’s safety and they applied to us all,” replied Ms May.
Ms Hillier then added: “So, to him, as well as me and you?” Ms May replied: “It certainly applied to all of us, including me.”
The CNO had first appeared on a daily coronavirus briefing at the start of April when she paid tribute to the first two nurses in England who had died after testing positive for Covid-19.