Coronavirus: NHS staff death toll rises to 27, up eight from last week

Health secretary Matt Hancock says every death will be investigated – and promises to ‘look into’ reports care home providers will have to pay £1.20 for new badges

Adam Forrest
Thursday 16 April 2020 11:45 BST
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All you need to know from the latest UK coronavirus briefing

At least 27 NHS workers have died after contracting the coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak, according to health secretary Matt Hancock.

The cabinet minister revealed a further eight deaths on Thursday morning, after last week announcing that 19 health service employees had died during the pandemic.

“Very sadly there are now 27 verified deaths amongst NHS colleagues, and I think these are incredibly heart-rending,” he told BBC Breakfast.

It follows news of the death of 28-year-old Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong – a pregnant NHS nurse working at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital who died from Covid-19, after her baby was saved.

Mr Hancock described Ms Agyapong’s death as a “terrible one”. He said: “It’s something that I feel very strongly ... We’re all deeply touched and moved by deaths of nurses like this.”

The health secretary said every death amongst NHS staff was being investigated to find out “what we can do better” to protect those on the front line. “Some of my NHS colleagues will have caught coronavirus from patients in the line of duty, others may have it caught it and not been at work.

“What we want to learn is what we can do better to protect our frontline workers both in the NHS and in social care ... And I think we owe that to our colleagues as well who have given their lives in duty and in service.”

The total number of health workers, care workers and support services staff to have died from Covid-19 in the UK is believed to be higher than the 27 confirmed by Mr Hancock’s department, however.

The Nursing Notes website – run by nurses – is keeping an updated total of all documented deaths of medical staff, nursing and midwifery staff, social care workers, allied health professionals and ancillary workers.

The site’s “digital memorial” had recorded the deaths of 56 health, social care and support workers in the UK from the virus by Thursday morning.

Mr Hancock also defended his new badge for care workers, widely mocked after he announced at Wednesday’s press conference. He claimed it has “practical consequences” – such as allowing them to attend priority shopping hours at supermarkets.

Questioned on reports that care home providers will have to buy badges for £1.20, he said: “I’m not aware ... I’ll look into that.”

Mr Hancock said just under 4,100 care workers have been tested for the coronavirus, and said the government remains set on the wider goal of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.

The health secretary claimed the government did not want to “waste’ the efforts of the public by lifting the lockdown measures too early, because coronavirus would “run rampant” once again.

“I understand those who are calling for an end to the lockdown or some kind of exit strategy to start now, but I think it’s just too early for that.”

The Independent has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment on the latest figures on NHS staff deaths.

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