Just before Christmas, the Salford Star ran an article which asked 'Did A Homeless Man Die In A Doorway In Manchester Piccadilly?' (see previous article Ė click here).
Pat, a voluntary outreach worker with Salford Manchester Street Support, was convinced that a man she found lifeless in the doorway was dead but, other than the North West Ambulance Service confirming that the man had been taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI), no other information was forthcoming. Greater Manchester Police press office merely stated that 'Looking on our logs there isn't anything that corresponds with this'.
"I think it's a cover up" Pat told the Salford Star "I think there's an order from the Government, or police or councils, whoever, not to report the numbers of people dying. They don't want people to know how many people are dying on the street."
There were subsequently rumours of further deaths of homeless people over the Christmas period, which, again, couldn't be substantiated, so the Salford Star put in Freedom of Information requests to every hospital trust in Greater Manchester asking for details of all deaths during the period 10th November 2017 until 10th January 2018, where the person was of 'no fixed abode'/homeless'.
We asked for 'names and causes of death, although if this isn't possible please provide numbers and causes of death'...
The Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and Penine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (which represent Salford Royal, the Royal Oldham and North Manchester General Hospital) responded, together with Stockport NHS Foundation Trust (which represents Stepping Hill Hospital) and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust (The Royal Bolton Hospital) Ė all stated that there were no deaths during the period that matched the criteria.
However, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which represents Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) and Wythenshawe Hospital, blocked its response, stating that releasing names would breach the Data Protection Act, which is acceptable. But the Trust added that releasing numbers would also breach the Act...
"Due to the small number involved detail of deaths no fixed adobe/homeless is not being released" the Trust stated in its response "Section 40(2) of the FOI Act provides that personal data about third parties is exempt information if one of the conditions set out in section 40(3) is satisfied. Under the Act disclosure of this information would breach the fair processing principle contained in the Data Protection Act (DPA), therefore this information is not being released."
The Trust, in a roundabout way, did confirm that there had been deaths of homeless people over the Christmas period by releasing the 'causes of death' as 'Cardiac Arrest'.
Angela Barratt, from Salford Manchester Street Support, called for figures to be released in the original Salford Star article; "We need to know who these people are who have died. It's not fair" she said, asking "Why should they have to die on the streets in 2017, in one of the richest countries in the world? This is Dark Age Britain."
In late January, after the period stated in the Salford Star Freedom of Information requests, Simon Williams, the uncle of a homeless man from Salford who sadly died after living on the streets in Manchester city centre, asked why the death wasn't reported and, again accused the authorities of a 'cover up'.*
"Homelessness should be a thing of the past; for Christ's sake we are living in 2018 and not the times of Charles Dickens" he said "When will people wake up and put an end to this? Surely to cover up one death is bad enough, but four since Christmas? In my eyes questions need answering.
"Didn't Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor, get in on promises to help the homeless?" he asked "Mr Mayor, we need action not false promises...and an end to what I believe is a cover up of the misery on our streets..."
* See previous Salford Star article: As Homeless Salford Man Dies, Uncle Asks Why It's Not Being Reported Ė click here
See also Salford Star article - Salford Rough Sleeping Almost Doubles - click here