Nineteen NHS workers have died in coronavirus pandemic, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirms

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Romilly Weeks

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed on Sunday that 19 NHS workers have died in the coronavirus outbreak.

But the number could already be higher, with tributes paid to more than 20 NHS workers who have died after contracting coronavirus or going into isolation with symptoms.

The government have been criticised by people within the NHS for a lack of PPE available.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, when pressed to apologise to NHS workers over a lack of personal protective equipment during the Government's daily briefing, said: “I’m sorry if people feel there have been failings.”

Earlier on Saturday, Matt Hancock told ITV News: "Very sadly we have seen NHS workers die, we've seen a total of 19 on the latest figures.

"And I feel so strongly for each because they're part of the NHS family."

When asked by Political Correspondent Romily Weeks whether he accepts that some of those deaths should have been prevented if the right equipment had been in place, he said: "Obviously, I look into detail into that question and so far we haven't seen any evidence of a link, which is good news and we've heard from the family of some of those who died who said that wasn't a problem in those cases."

Mr Hancock's comments on the number of deaths comes a day after he was questioned to reveal how many frontline workers had lost their lives in the fight against Covid-19.

During the government's coronavirus briefing on Friday, the health secretary deferred the question to England's Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May, who declined to give a figure.

Ms May said: "It would be inappropriate for me right now to go into listing them and numbering them because we haven't got necessarily all of the position across England with all of the people's families giving us permission to talk about them."

The health secretary also faced a backlash for saying personal protective equipment should be treated "as a precious resource".

Mr Hancock said: "There’s enough PPE to go around, but only if it’s used in line with our guidance."

But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) dismissed any suggestions healthcare staff were "abusing or overusing" PPE.

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair told ITV News: "I fear that if we do not get the right equipment to frontline staff there will be deaths related to this.

"And that's why I'm urging the government and everyone that has the power to do this to make sure we are getting the equipment.

"We've been with this four months now, there should be no shortage of gowns, even if it's a worldwide problem we've had time to prepare."

Meanwhile Dr Jenny Vaughan, from the Doctors Association UK, told ITV News: "We have concerns that because there is no mention of any pharmacists, any care-home workers in any of any deaths.

"We are concerned that there are other people that should be being recorded and that there are other at risk situations where people don't have PPE that should all fall as part of that investigation and there should be transparency about it because if there isn't you can't actually solve and identify all the problems on the frontline.

On the same week, a doctor who warned the prime minister about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS workers died on Wednesday after contracting coronavirus.

Abdul Mabud Chowdhury died this week, three weeks after issuing a warning about a lack of PPE for NHS workers. Credit: PA

Just five days before being admitted, Consultant urologist Abdul Mabud Chowdhury wrote a Facebook post asking Boris Johnson to urgently provide every NHS worker with PPE.

In the post on March 18, he wrote: "People appreciate us and salute us for our rewarding job which are very inspirational but I would like to say we have to protect ourselves and our families/kids in this global disaster/crisis by using appropriate PPE and remedies."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was "quite frankly insulting" to suggest health care workers were "wasting" PPE.

He added: "There are horrific stories of NHS staff and care workers not having the equipment they need to keep them safe.

"The Government must act to ensure supplies are delivered."

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