A VIRAL Twitter thread claiming the UK Government has links to fake NHS staff Twitter accounts has been called into question after the Department of Health and the social media giant denied the allegations.

The thread, which amassed more than 25,000 retweets and was shared by high-profile Twitter users, alleged the Department of Health has been running a network of fake NHS employee accounts to support the UK Government’s coronavirus response.

The tweets were composed by John O’Connell, whose bio states he is a journalist and founder and editor at FRW Anti-Racism Group.

He claimed there were 128 accounts registered to one person with four assigned contributors – and theorised they had been set up by the Department for Health and Social Care of a market agency linked to them.

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The accounts, including "NHS Susan" which he highlighted at the beginning of the thread, have since been deleted.

The "NHS Susan" in question had been wearing a badge with the name "Mia" on - and West Herts NHS, where it appears the woman in the photograph works, confirmed the account did not belong to her. They wrote on Twitter: "We reported this fake account to twitter as soon as we were made aware of it. It has now been shut down."

While O'Connell did not report how he had come to the conclusion that the Department of Health was responsible for the posts, or the name of the marketing agency allegedly involved, he wrote on Twitter this morning: "Update on the Fake Nurses Accounts: We’re analysing the data and seeking a way of presenting it while protecting ourselves from legal issues. We know what happened to those that blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica. More to come."

Initially, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “These claims are categorically false.

“To share disinformation of this kind undermines the national effort against coronavirus.”

Twitter was also asked whether there was evidence of such a scheme taking place. The social media giant told the Financial Times they could not see evidence of such a “large-scale co-ordinated platform manipulation surrounding the Covid-19 conversation, including suggested co-ordination associated with the UK Government”.

They added that they would remove smaller co-ordinated efforts to distort the conversation around the pandemic and would “remain vigilant” against misinformation on the platform.

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