Matt Hancock has been asked for a public apology by the son of a doctor who died after warning the government about a lack of PPE.
On Tuesday morning the health secretary took part in a live radio phone-in with Nick Ferrari on LBC, taking questions from members of the public.
The first question came from Intisar Chowdhury, the son of Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, who died earlier this month with Covid-19.
Five days before he was admitted to hospital, Dr Chowdhury wrote a Facebook post asking Boris Johnson urgently to provide every NHS worker with personal protective equipment (PPE).
Dr Chowdhury, a consultant urologist, died with Covid-19 in early April two weeks after making the plea.
Referencing the fact that around 100 NHS staff have died with the virus, Chowdhury asked Hancock: “Do you regret not taking my dad’s concerns, my 11-year-old sister’s dad’s concerns and my [mum’s] husband’s concerns seriously enough for my dad that we’ve all lost?”
Hancock replied: “Intisar, I’m really sorry about your dad’s death and I have seen the comments you’ve made and what you’ve said in public and I think it’s very brave of you.
“We took very, very seriously what your father said and we’ve been working around the clock to ensure that there’s enough protective equipment.
“In the case of anybody who works in the NHS or in social care and has died from coronavirus we look into it in each case to find out the reasons where they might have caught it and what lessons we can learn.”
Hancock said policies had been changed as more is learned about coronavirus, giving the example of changing guidance on funeral attendance after seeing 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab buried without his family.
He also said that thousands of people were “doing everything they can” to solve issues with PPE despite complicated logistical problems.
Hancock was then asked to acknowledge publicly that mistakes had been made.
Chowdhury said: “The public is not expecting the government to handle this perfectly – none of us are expecting perfection, we’re expecting progression.
“We just want you to openly acknowledge that there have been mistakes in handling the virus, especially to me and to so many families that have really lost loved ones as a result of this virus and probably as a result of the government not handling it seriously enough.
“Openly acknowledging your mistake is not an admission of guilt, it is genuinely just making you seem more human.”
Chowdhury then asked for a public apology on Tuesday, referencing the daily Downing Street press conference as an opportunity.
Hancock replied: “I think that it is very important that we’re constantly learning about how to do these things better and I think listening to the voices on the frontline is a very, very important part of how we improve.”
Ferrari then passed on condolences to Chowdhury on behalf of him and the health secretary, who added “absolutely”.
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