The coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a massive wave of false and misleading information due to attempts by foreign actors to influence public health in this country.

Misleading healthcare information, dangerous hoaxes with false claims conspiracy theories and consumer fraud endanger public health. Some might ask why the UK Defence Journal is publishing this, it is my belief that disinformation designed to hurt public health is a serious national concern.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Russia’s disinformation ecosystem has waged a comprehensive operation against various Western targets.

Both the US State Department’s Global Engagement Center and the EU’s External Action Service have identified a myriad of stories in pro-Kremlin media and social accounts that have sought to discredit the policies and performance of the Western democracies while painting Russian actions in a most positive light.

According to the State Department, during the pandemic, “the full Russian ecosystem of official state media, proxy news sites, and social media personas have been pushing multiple disinformation narratives”.

These narratives have aimed to validate the Kremlin’s standard talking points about the alleged fragility of the US-led liberal rules-based international order, the benefits of national autonomy, and the ineffectiveness of democratic regimes and institutions.

US officials also say that Russian intelligence services are using a trio of English-language websites to spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, including claiming hospitals are empty and that vaccines do not work.

Two Russians who have held senior roles in Moscow’s military intelligence service known as the GRU have been identified as responsible for a disinformation effort reaching American and western audiences, US government officials said. They spoke to the Associated Press here.

You can read more about this in a paper called ‘Assessing the Russian Disinformation Campaign During COVID-19‘, this article is going to look at one of the practical effects.

What’s happening?

The pandemic has seen a recurring assertion in mainstream and social media that hospitals are empty. The implication with this is that earlier concerns about hospitals being overwhelmed were exaggerated or that clinical staff are workshy, while managers are incompetent or complacent about patients without covid-19 awaiting treatment.

The Daily Telegraph reported recently that hospitals were “eerily quiet” and “literally half empty.” If you work in acute general hospitals it’s hard to read this stuff and not get upset. Members of the public then engage in frustration with doctors, asking us to explain or defend this fake news.

Many hospitals around the country have been targeted for filming over the last few weeks. In some cases, those taking the videos appear to have gone unchallenged but others have led to hospitals and police taking action.

This brings us on to a perfect example of this behaviour.

Recently, a person entered the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow to video what she believes to be a COVID19 conspiracy, only, she has filmed areas that do not treat COVID19 patients.

So, what do we have? Allison Leitch has entered into areas that do not accept walk in coronavirus patients to lament the fact that there are no walk in coronavirus patients.

We have uploaded a copy of this video to show you but the original can be found here. The video is captioned “QEUH… NO OVERSTRETCHED HOSPITAL HERE” despite the fact that the poster has entered a public lobby which is not somewhere patients are treated.

It’s your usual ‘walk in and video empty areas and claim it’s a hoax’ style nonsense. The next video, captioned “No big drama in ambulance bays, just IDLE EMPTY AMBULANCES” is also a bit odd.

We have also uploaded a copy of this video to show you above but the original can be found here.

The user claims she has “photographs from two years ago“, we aren’t sure of the relevance of this point. Perhaps she means that less people can be seen now compared to them but this would imply she has no idea over current guidelines on patients and their admittance to the hospital.

Surely people realise that patients aren’t treated in the street or in corridors for Coronavirus?

There’s also a video taken inside the Accident and Emergency department, for some reason.

I asked Allison what she was expecting to see when she walked into the hospital:

“I’m not expecting anything. I’m just showing folks there’s no queues of ambulances treating patients outside coz they can’t get into the hospital, yi know, like they’re telling folks who watch the propaganda every day on that telly. I’m baffled at the fact people still believe this is about a virus. I had to be forced to go to the hospital last week and many people are going to lose their lives coz they didn’t want to overwhelm the NHS, or risk catching a virus with a 99.6% survival rate.

I need a holiday, some sunshine and a hand to get some sensible people together to try and put some support in place for our community. The current situation is dire, nobody’s coming to fix this for us. Democracy is DEAD, unless we unite right now and fight for it. We are Scotland… The cowards, who can see exactly how we are being treated by the people we’ve trusted to protect and promote our amazing wee country.

Oh the big boys club… I hate bullies. I don’t want to be ranting here George, but I want you to know that I try to be respectful to everyone, but at my age I’m at a stage where I’ve had enough of this and I’m going to do my best to try to bring fun and hope back into people’s lives. God knows we need it. If you’re up for bringing your bit to the table and see what we can all come up with then please let us know. If everybody just done their wee bit the results could be outstanding. If good loyal people stand united we’ll never look back. Treat people the way you want treated yourself.. Its not hard eh? I m passionate about saving Netherton community centre.”

The rant continued, my ability to listen did not.

Why do hospitals seem empty?

Many hospitals seem somewhat empty due to a number of reasons such as the stopping of most non-urgent care to create bed capacity, the stopping of visiting which accounts for a huge drop in footfall and of course the closing of most outpatient services.

There have been videos taken of dozens of locations and some have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, many appearing to show proof of empty hospitals but that’s not really how hospitals work. The number of Covid patients has increased significantly in recent weeks and there are serious concerns about the NHS’s ability to cope with the surge.

However, as pointed out above, because of the way healthcare trusts have reorganised hospitals, often separating Covid patients from others, and cancelling non-urgent care to free up capacity, some parts of hospital buildings will currently look empty.
That doesn’t mean hospitals aren’t busy.

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Billythefish
Billythefish (@guest_540965)
2 months ago

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-56086978 I am afraid that the problem is that the NHS, despite having so many months to prepare for the second wave of the pandemic, that they predicted, failed entirely to increase staff number sufficiently to be able to manage the extra bed requirements. I have no doubt that the empty parts of the hospitals we see (and the Media and authorities try to hide from us) are genuinely not in use for operational reasons, rather than some kind of conspiracy, however the fact remains that we were supposed to be ”protecting the NHS” to give them the time they… Read more »

SoleSurvivor
SoleSurvivor (@guest_540982)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

Lay off the glue mate, what a silly rant that is. Do you think delivering parcels out of a van is even remotely the same as training to become a nurse or doctor? The NHS is a skilled workforce and that high quality training takes years in the front line professions, not half a day as a passenger in big dave’s van. “protecting the NHS” to give them the time they needed to get organised” Thats your take on what it means, in reality protecting the NHS means stopping the spread of the virus so hospitals don’t get overwhelmed with… Read more »

Damo
Damo (@guest_541109)
2 months ago
Reply to  SoleSurvivor

Well said

Paul T
Paul T (@guest_540983)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

I can only speak from my experience but where i work most points you raise have been implemented,we have had a massive uplift in Staff from the Unemployed,Volunteers etc,these last few weeks have seen the Military arrive too.The only Problem is there is a Shortage of Qualified Nurses,especially ITU /Critical Care trained ones,these don’t grow on Trees.That was a Major Factor why the Nightingale Hospital’s couldn’t be used in any great Capacity.

Billythefish
Billythefish (@guest_541003)
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul T

I think you hit the nail on the head and we agree. There is a shortage of qualified staff. Now why? This is the real issue here. There are many people capable and willing to help as volunteers or ideally short term staff – but the barriers remain in place and the NHS/BMA have not sufficiently adapted to the situation – so instead of stretching to meet the demand – they have simply rationed supply to a point that the are now 10 million people on waiting lists. They don’t grow on trees – correct. This can be said about… Read more »

Billythefish
Billythefish (@guest_541008)
2 months ago
Reply to  George Allison

Yep – again – funny – but the reality is that it isn’t just the corridors is it?

And when there have been flu/other outbreaks/crisis in the past – actually they have filled them up (not that that is a good thing but sometimes in busy periods the corridors are ”busy”)

It’s all very well picking on people for filming and promulgating information about our hospitals, but I would rather we sought to question and understand what we see – not shoot the messengers.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_541385)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

Take it from someone who is constantly reviewing one particular bit of the health system (a couple of counties), analysing systems capacity ( daily bed states, referral rates, waiting lists, staff etc etc etc etc) and the risks around that….it’s stretch like it never has been before and we are juggling everting we can…..I’m losing sleep and working 60 hour a weeks for a reason mate.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jonathan
Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_541384)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

Unfortunately you plan your healthcare workforce around a decade in advance. So we are living with decisions made in 2011 at the hight of the financial crisis. You can save a fortune cutting health care professional training, it costs a lot to train a nurse, Dr, pharm etc and you can toddle along without it impacting the there and then for a few years . Trouble is it hits you after years those years. The year before the pandemic was the first time ever the register of nurses shrank ( the total of qualifying nurses and overseas nurses coming into… Read more »

TrevorH
TrevorH (@guest_540985)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

I think you are talking ignorant rubbish

SoleSurvivor
SoleSurvivor (@guest_541012)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

Lay off the glue mate, what a silly rant that is. Do you think delivering parcels out of a van is even remotely the same as training to become a nurse or doctor? The NHS is a skilled workforce and that high quality training takes years in the front line professions, not half a day as a passenger in big dave’s van. “protecting the NHS” to give them the time they needed to get organised” Thats your take on what it means, in reality protecting the NHS means stopping the spread of the virus so hospitals don’t get overwhelmed with… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_541388)
2 months ago
Reply to  SoleSurvivor

Sole, it think billy has made me see the light…. I did not need years of training and education to understand that vast array of things that kill or harm people and how to manage them, interpreting X-rays, pharmacology, things like the impact of immobility, motivational theory, the grief cycle, infection prevention control, the management of infectious disease in the individuals and communities, supporting those with mental illness or learning disabilities. Deescalation of violence in individual who are scared in pain, suffering grief or impaired thought. I did not need to be mentally prepared to be able to treat dying… Read more »

lee1
lee1 (@guest_541018)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

Are you seriously saying that the NHS can simply hire new doctors to react to surges? Given the lead time on training medical staff they would have needed to predict the surge about 8 years ago! Then what would they do when it is all over? Just tell the doctors to go and stack shelves at Tesco? Your post makes no sense. Also it is not the NHS that got this wrong it was the Government. One of Boris Johnsons first acts as PM was to abolish the Pandemics Department. The very department that is responsible for tracking, predicting and… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_541377)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

You a actually realise that the people who work in hospitals have skill sets and knowledge bases that take years even decades to develop. Just to give you an idea: Basic staff nurse: 3 years training, 2000 hours practice 2000 hours theory. Then around 1 year consolidate basic skills from training. To be come an expert staff nurse will take up to 5 years of work in that persons field ( surgical, medical, elderly, emergency, cardiac, theatres, ITU ect). junior charge nurse, sister, these individuals are your shift leaders and expert support the the nursing team, you don’t start that… Read more »

Billythefish
Billythefish (@guest_540966)
2 months ago

”…Some parts of hospital buildings will currently look empty.
That doesn’t mean hospitals aren’t busy.”

And here are some magic beans I want to sell you!

Busy places are not empty places.

An empty room is not a busy room.

They are not utilising the capacity of assets they have correctly.

Billythefish
Billythefish (@guest_541001)
2 months ago
Reply to  George Allison

Preferably put outpatients in it – the organisational failures to be able to meet the uplift in demand is not good enough. 10 Million on a waiting list is not good enough.

lee1
lee1 (@guest_541019)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

They moved services to different hospitals so that vulnerable people were not put in the middle of a Covid ward! We have two large Hospitals near us and one was specifically kept Covid Free so that it could treat Cancer patients etc. The other moved their Cancer patients to that hospital and was then left to treat covid patients. The Cancer wards would have been empty at that hospital and the A&E at the cancer hospital would have been totally empty as it was essentially closed! You seem to have a very simplistic view of a very complex situation. Stop… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_541389)
2 months ago
Reply to  George Allison

George, unfortunately you really get people to understand this. Most people simple don’t have the knowledge or experience to grasp what a health system is, they see buildings and a few nurses or doctors walking around, not the knowledge base of generations delivered by a workforce a million strong, most requiring the most rigorous mix of academic and practical training found anywhere (that continues throughout their working lives) They will never understand why that senior nurse they see in A/E walking the floor of the department has got a degree, a couple of diplomas and MSc and may be working… Read more »

Herodotus
Herodotus (@guest_540991)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billythefish

Billythefish is back in his bubble again. My kitchen is a busy place as it is the centre of household activities! The bathroom is empty at the moment as nobody is going for a shit! Busy rooms, not so busy rooms in a generally busy household….get the idea?

Billythefish
Billythefish (@guest_541004)
2 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

Yes funny – but the point is this – are you able to use the bathroom or are you turned away?

Your bathroom is able to be utilised.

These hospitals, for the vast majority of sick people are not (ie 10 million or so).

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub (@guest_540997)
2 months ago

The NHS could do themselves a real favour in getting across how busy they are, if they stopped their staff from putting dance routines in empty wards on tik-tok.

Paul T
Paul T (@guest_541016)
2 months ago

That’s a Valid point but when you’re a Nurse Scared out of your Wit’s, dealing with a Virus that’s an Unknown Quantity, having to Wear PPE for the Whole of your long Shift, any Light Hearted Relief of Stress and Anxiety can’t be a bad thing.

lee1
lee1 (@guest_541021)
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul T

Nope if they are having the slightest bit of fun to make themselves feel a bit better instead of working until they die of exhaustion then they are not doing a good enough job… I mean lets not blame conspiracy theorists for seeing those videos and not checking the context, poor blighters… They can’t be held responsible due to their tiny brains.

Julian
Julian (@guest_541023)
2 months ago

I despair of people sometimes, or at least people like these. Where is a hospital going to treat people with a dangerous highly contagious disease? They could put them in selected carefully prepared isolation wards and other reception areas with entry controls and, in the red zone wards, strict barrier and PPE checks on the entrances or they could simply bung them on trolleys parked in random corridors or in easily assessible waiting rooms with no barrier control. Claiming that pictures of non-Covid areas of hospitals not being packed with Covid patients is evidence of no Covid is about as… Read more »

Herodotus
Herodotus (@guest_541029)
2 months ago

Latest information on Nurse recruitment….though it is the BBC and therefore not to be trusted if you believe in little green men!

Covid-19: Record number of students apply for nursing – BBC News

JohnG
JohnG (@guest_541044)
2 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

As far as I recall numbers of people applying for nursing has never been the rate limiting step wrt numbers of trained nurses (there has always been significantly more people applying than places that are available). A little bit ingenious for the article to imply this is the case… But there we go. Dismantling the bias a little bit more, if we look at the graph provided in this article here https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/blog/2020/02/will-2020-see-nursing-student-numbers-recover You can see that prior to the conservatives removing the bursary for nurses (2017), levels of people applying were at around 60’000. So essentially levels of people applying… Read more »

JohnG
JohnG (@guest_541034)
2 months ago

Don’t have a personal stance on this. As said previously though, I resent these gaslighting articles and wish the site would just focus on the articles that people come to this site for. When the government are not being honest and are deliberately trying to scare a population with selective use of statistics it’s a bit disingenuous to imply that anyone questioning this mainstream narrative is somehow either a victim of or in cahoots with foreign actors. Personally I have not seen any articles from these supposed foreign actors. Recently I read an interesting article in the BMJ regarding the… Read more »

lee1
lee1 (@guest_541117)
2 months ago
Reply to  JohnG

This is not a gaslighting article… Gaslighting is portraying a victim as the person to blame for their own situation while the abuser tries to make the victim believe that they are the ones trying to help them. It is a mind control technique often used in abusive relationships.

I do not see how an article highlighting the facts and disproving the ridiculous conspiracy theories is gaslighting…

Herodotus
Herodotus (@guest_541119)
2 months ago
Reply to  lee1

Thanks for that Lee…I have often wondered what gaslighting meant! Other than the obvious one that is ?