“I understand why NHS staff want tests, so they can come back to the front line, of course I do,” he said. “But I made the decision that the first priority should be the patients for whom the results of a test could be the difference in treatment which is the difference between life and death.
“I think anyone in my place would have made the same decision. “
His announcement was made at the daily Downing Street Coronavirus briefing, in which he announced that more than £ 13 billion in debt owed by hospital trusts would be written off to place the National Health Service in a “stronger position” To respond to the crisis.
The health secretary said he had also made £ 300 million available to community pharmacies and wanted to make sure that “every part” of the health and care system was supported.
“Today, to help NHS trusts provide what they need without worrying about past finances, I can announce that I am canceling £ 13.4 billion in NHS debt,” he said. declared.
“This historic step will not only put the NHS in a stronger position to be able to respond to this global coronavirus pandemic, but it will ensure that our NHS also has a stronger foundation for the future.”
At an unusually detailed press conference after several days of criticism of the government’s strategy, Hancock also tried to address allegations that the UK was lagging behind responses to the disease in d ‘other European countries like Germany.
Hancock has said he will “upgrade with you” on the challenges the UK is facing and on the government’s plan to dramatically increase testing.
The UK has not entered this crisis with a huge diagnostic industry, like Germany, he said, and is therefore “catching up”.
The demand for materials has resulted in a shortage of swabs and reagents, Hancock said. The swab problem has been resolved, but “we are still tackling the reagent problem, which is a global challenge,” he said.
In what appeared to be a first recognition by the government that mistakes had been made, he added: “There will be criticisms, and some will be justified. “
Hancock said there was a “challenge” in ensuring that the public could trust the tests used on NHS staff. He added that a number of test methods under analysis had failed to positively diagnose a coronavirus patient.
“In one case, a test that I am invited to buy missed three out of four positive cases for coronavirus.
“This means that three-quarters of the tests would have given the false comfort of referring someone with a coronavirus to services. Approving tests that don’t work is dangerous and I won’t do it, ”he said.
Hancock paid emotional tribute to the lost NHS staff and expressed “heartfelt condolences” to the friends and families of all the victims of the coronavirus.
“If the past few weeks have shown us anything, it is that we are resolved as a country in our determination to defeat this invisible killer,” he said.