The Health Secretary has acknowledged “the incredible bravery” of NHS staff as the coronavirus death toll of those in the care sector continues to grow.
Matt Hancock, having recovered from his own bout of Covid-19, said “the whole nation is grateful” to NHS staff for working through difficult times, amid lingering concerns of a lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) and frontline testing.
The chief nursing officer for England added her personal gratitude to the profession as two NHS colleagues – Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke – were named among those health workers to have died from the virus.
Speaking at the opening of the NHS Nightingale field hospital at the ExCel centre in east London, Mr Hancock told the PA news agency: “I pay tribute to the NHS staff who’ve died serving the NHS, serving the nation.
“It shows the incredible bravery of every member of the NHS who goes into work knowing that these dangers are there.
“I think it is a testament to every doctor and nurse and paramedic and other health professional who is working in the NHS in these difficult times.
“And I think the whole nation is grateful.”
It came as tributes were paid to NHS nurses who died after contracting Covid-19.
Mother-of-three Ms Nasreen, who worked at Walsall Manor Hospital near Birmingham, was described as “the most loveliest, genuine person you could ever meet”.
And Ms O’Rourke, also a mother-of-three who worked at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, was heralded by friends as a nurse who “gave her life to make sure other people survived” during the coronavirus outbreak.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, told PA: “I’m hugely grateful to the tens of thousands of nurses, doctors, health and social care workers that day in, day out are working around the clock.
“They know that this is the greatest global health emergency and I am grateful, personally grateful, for everyone that’s stepping up to support the NHS right now.
“I know as a nurse myself that we, in our time of need, it’s important that we are there to serve our patients.
“And I am grateful for them all doing that day in, day out.”
Downing Street confirmed more than 26.7 million units of PPE were delivered to 281 NHS “trusts and providers” in England on Thursday.
It follows the new guidance issued by Public Health England about the level of protection health staff should wear depending on the patient situation.