Health secretary Matt Hancock has issued a strong defence of the government against allegations he has ‘let the care sector’ down during the coronavirus outbreak.
Today programme presenter Martha Kearney put it to him that more care workers had died than doctors and nurses.
But Hancock provided a strong defence of the government’s actions, claiming the number of people dying in care homes has nearly halved in the past few weeks.
‘No, I think that that’s really unfair,’ he said. ‘The reason is this: Some of our most vulnerable people live in care homes and yet only around a quarter of deaths that have been in care homes.
‘That is much lower than most international comparators.
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‘And at the same time, we’ve put in place those measures to protect people in care homes.’
The health secretary also defended the government against Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures which showed people working in social care in England and Wales twice as likely to die with coronavirus as the general working-age population.
But healthcare workers have been no more likely to die than other workers.
The ONS calculates that 131 social care workers died from the virus up to April 20, with 106 from the health service.
Hancock told Today: ‘I think the fact that, among people who work in the NHS, no more people have died than in the general population, I think that is a testament to how the NHS has performed.
‘In almost all epidemics like this, it is doctors and nurses who tend to bear the brunt and so far, in this epidemic, in this country, there has been no higher death rate among healthcare workers.
‘I think that is a really good thing.’
His comments have raised eyebrows with listeners of the Radio 4 morning programme.
Jenny Scholfield tweeted: ‘Gasped when I heard this. Hancock actually said the rate of deaths of NHS staff is a good thing. I’m lost for words.’
‘So, Matt Hancock thinks it’s a good thing that doctors and nurses are dying at the same rate as the general population. If they were dying at a lower rate, would he cut their pay for not trying hard enough?’ asked Norman Macleod.
‘Matt Hancock says the number of dead NHS staff is ‘a really good thing’. He’s certainly living his statement that communications are ‘second order’,’ wrote James Millar.