Matt Hancock’s actions ‘left care sector exposed’ says UK’s largest union

'Matt Hancock is living in a different world'

Marr Hancock speaking at a Covid press conference

The UK’s largest union has slammed the former health secretary over his handling of the pandemic and accused him of ‘living in a different world, following evidence he gave at the Covid-19 inquiry yesterday.

UNISON stressed that Matt Hancock’s actions ‘left the care sector exposed’ after failing to provide enough protective kit and testing in care homes where staff and residents were put at greater risk of catching the virus.

The union laid into the Tory government, accusing ministers of leaving the care sector in a shocking state, despite a decade of being in power.

Social care had been ‘systematically neglected’ in the run up to the pandemic, the union said, which meant the sector was woefully unfit to handle a pandemic.

Previous calls to improve the availability of sick pay so care workers didn’t lose out when ill or isolated had been ignored highlighted UNISON, which meant many staff were forced to continue to work when ill during the pandemic.

Hancock told the inquiry on Tuesday that he was ‘profoundly sorry’ for his part in the mistakes made during the Covid pandemic, and that he understood why his apology ‘would be hard to take from someone like him’.

Head of social care at UNISON, Gavin Edwards, said Matt Hancock’s ‘disregard for the most vulnerable cost thousands of lives’, as he called for reform in the sector which continues to be overstretched and desperately short of staff.

“Matt Hancock is living in a different world. His actions left the care sector exposed to the devastating impact of the pandemic,” said Edwards.

“Nothing can right the many mistakes made by ministers three years ago. But social care can be improved drastically now so the sector is more resilient in future.

“A properly funded national care service, delivered by local councils, using better trained and fairly paid staff, would ensure good quality care to all who need it.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) further highlighted that Hancock’s apologies would ‘ring hollow’ for doctors and patients and accused the Tory MP of dismissing the relevance of his failures whilst giving evidence.

BMA council chair Professor Philip Banfield said: “By saying the stockpile of PPE was ‘very significant’ in early 2020 and that the problem was just one of distribution, he is glossing over the issues of quality and type of PPE. 

“Staff had to use items that were out of date, with multiple expiry stickers visibly layered on top of each other, leading to some PPE that was no longer fit for purpose snapping unpredictably while in use.

During the first wave of the pandemic 81% of doctors reported not feeling fully protected, according to a BMA survey.

Bereaved family members confronted Hancock outside the inquiry building and he was reportedly told to ‘go away’ after approaching bereaved families in the public gallery.

Hancock resigned as health minister after breaching his own Covid-19 rules when he was caught kissing his closest aide in his ministerial office.

Last December, Hancock announced he will not stand again as a Tory MP at the next general election following controversy after going on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: Pippa Fowles / Number 10 Downing Street – Creative Commons)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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