• Stevens warns videos could lead to dangerous behaviour change
  • Johnson says covid deniers should “grow up”
  • Police involved after videos of hospitals posted online

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has launched a blistering attack on people who post videos of ‘empty’ hospitals online claiming they show the NHS is not under pressure from covid.

In this afternoon’s Downing Street press conference with Boris Johnson, Sir Simon said that posting such videos meant people were “responsible for potentially changing behaviour that will kill people”.

“It’s an insult to the nurse coming home after 12 hours in critical care, having worked her guts out under the most demanding and trying circumstances,” he went on.

“There’s nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it’s most obviously untrue.”

His comments came after a series of videos from different hospitals were posted online, leading in one case to an arrest and in another to people being interviewed by police.

Mr Johnson said people who stood outside hospitals and claimed covid was a hoax “needed to grow up”.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson also condemned the videoing, saying trust leaders saw it as “deeply disrespectful” of the effort frontline NHS staff were making.

“It is entirely legitimate to question how the NHS is responding to the pandemic – informed, evidence based, dissent is vital in any democracy. But deliberately spreading lies and disinformation at the peak of the biggest public health crisis in a generation is another thing entirely,” he said.

A Facebook group – “empty hospitals” — has hosted some of the videos, as well as discussions about the NHS’ response to covid. Many of the videos appear to be of outpatient or reception areas, and some were taken at night.

The group was set up at the end of December but already has more than 13,000 members, including several dozen who claim to be healthcare workers. It is unclear whether they agree with the views expressed on the group’s page or are monitoring it to see if their own hospitals are mentioned. Some have tried to explain the pressure their own hospitals have been under – only to be called “virus lovers.”

As well as empty hospital videos, postings include many which are sceptical about covid vaccines, allege doctors and nurses are staying silent about “the truth” and criticise NHS staff for posting Tiktok videos.

Others allege the pandemic has been planned since 2012, that there is a plot to reduce the world population through a “new world order” and that the covid vaccines have led to deaths. Some comments on the group’s page have been deleted or fact-checked by facebook.

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.

Gloucestershire police said that a 46-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of a public order offence on 29 December following reports of video filming at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. “The woman has been bailed to return to police on 21 January, with conditions that she cannot enter any NHS premises or the grounds of any such premises, unless in the case of an emergency or to attend a pre-arranged NHS appointment,” the force said in a statement.

And West Mercia police chief inspector Ed Hancox said: “Following reports that individuals were entering hospitals in Worcestershire to film, a number of men voluntarily attended Kidderminster Police station to discuss the matter. At this time no arrests have been made and no fixed penalties have been issued but an investigation and review of available evidence remains ongoing into any potential breaches of the Covid-19 regulations.”

The BBC also reported that security officers at Colchester Hospital removed people taking photographs of empty corridors.