Claims that UK hospitals are ‘empty’ are false - the myths debunked

A number of videos have been posted online which claim to show empty hospitals around the UK, arguing that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been overexaggerated.

The videos have garnered a strong reaction from healthcare officials.

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NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, responded, stating that they are “most obviously untrue”.

He said: “If you sneak into a hospital, in an empty corridor at nine o’clock at night, and film that particular corridor and then stick it up on social media and say, ‘This proves the hospitals are empty, the whole thing is a hoax’, you are not only responsible for potentially changing behaviour that will kill people, but it is an insult to the nurse coming home from 12 hours in critical care, having worker her guts out under the most demanding and trying of circumstances.

“There is nothing more demoralising then having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is most obviously untrue.”

What do the videos show?

The videos circulating online are generally filmed by individuals walking through quiet hospital corridors.

These kinds of videos have been shot in a number of different locations, and have garnered thousands of views online.

Due to the way that hospitals have been reorganised to handle Covid-19 cases, and to separate these patients from others, some hospital buildings may look empty, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t busy.

‘Our services remain extremely busy’

One video, spread over three clips posted online, claimed that Croydon University Hospital was empty, and that the Government is over exaggerating the impact of the pandemic. The video begins with the person entering into the main reception room, passing signs which say 'No Entry'.

“I’ve never seen this place so empty,” the individual filming comments.

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In a statement, the hospital said: “Contrary to videos circulating online claiming to show our hospital is empty, our services remain extremely busy.”

A spokesperson for Croydon Health Services told the BBC: “We have a one way system in the main entrance to help with social distancing when entering or leaving the hospital. The video shows this person arriving via the exit.

“The video was also filmed overnight, when the coffee shops would be closed and when we would expect to see our corridors less busy.”

While the video shows empty corridors, the hospital explained in its statement: “We provide care in our wards and in other clinical areas - not in corridors or waiting rooms.”

‘The spread of misinformation’

At another point in the video, the person filming walks around the outside of the A&E waiting room. In the video, people can be seen in the waiting room, sitting socially distanced from each other.

The hospital said: “Regarding the A&E waiting area, the video only shows the entrance to the department.

Patients brought in by ambulance, or those in a serious condition or requiring admission to hospital, are unlikely to be waiting in this area.

“Perpetuating myths and rumours only undermines their [NHS staff] hard work. It also risks the spread of misinformation, which could lead people to risk their own health and the health of their loved ones.”

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‘Not representative of what is happening in hospitals’

Another video posted on social media platform Twitter showed a person walking through corridors at the Princess Royal Hospital in Bromley, claiming that it is “empty”.

A spokesperson for the King’s College NHS Trust said: “This corridor is not representative of what is happening in wards across the hospital, which have seen more than ten fold increase in Covid admissions in the space of a month.”

A different video showed three men visiting Kidderminster Hospital in Worcestershire. In the video, they state that they are going to A&E to prove that the Covid-19 crisis is not “justifiable to be called a pandemic”.

After entering the building, which they state is A&E, they see no patients and leave, concluding that “there is nothing going on” and, “This ain’t a pandemic”.

However, the hospital in question has not had an A&E unit for over 20 years, and the area which was filmed was actually a Minor Injuries Unit, as seen on a sign on the wall. An NHS spokesperson also confirmed that Covid-19 patients are not treated at Kidderminster Hospital.

In a statement to Reuters, Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I am sure anyone who saw or heard about these videos would share my sense of disgust and outrage that anyone would seek to peddle such toxic fake news while NHS staff across the country are facing the devastating impact of the pandemic every day.

“Their actions were reckless and their agenda of denying the impact of Covid is both ignorant and potentially life threatening.

“We have a very difficult job to do and this kind of stupidity risks damaging staff morale at the worst possible time.”