Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirms 19 NHS workers have died after chief nursing officer ducked answering question
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed 19 NHS staff have died from the coronavirus.
His announcement comes after chief nursing officer Ruth May suffered a social media backlash after ducking the question at last night's Downing Street briefing.
When asked by a journalist how many frontline NHS staff had lost their lives, she siad it would be 'inappropriate' to say 'out of respect to the families'.
However, Mr Hancock confirmed the number on BBC Breakfast, sending his condolences to their families and friends.
“My heart goes out to their families, these are people who have put themselves on the front line.
“The work is going on to establish whether they caught coronavirus in the line of duty while at work or whether, like so many other people, caught it in the rest of their lives. It is obviously quite difficult to work that out.
“What matters is we pay tribute to their service.”
He also added he was concerned with how many BAME workers had died.
"I’m particularly struck at the high proportion of people from minority ethnic backgrounds and people who have come to this country to work in the NHS who have died of coranavirus.
“I find it really upsetting actually and it is a testament to the fact that people who have come from all over the world have come and given their lives in service to the NHS and paid for that with their lives.
“I think we should recognise their enormous contribution.”
Hancock had faced his own backlash after saying that Personal Protective Equipment is a 'precious resource', and there would be enough to go around if the staff 'used it correctly'.
RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair told BBC Breakfast: “I take offence actually that we are saying that healthcare workers are abusing or overusing PPE.
“I think what we know is, we don’t have enough supply and not enough regular supply of PPE.
“This is the number one priority nurses are bringing to my attention, that they do not have adequate supply of protective equipment.”
Meanwhile Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was insulting to say NHS staff were 'wasting' PPE.