UK among highest COVID-19 healthcare worker deaths in the world

At least 540 health and social care workers are now believed to have died of COVID-19.

James McKay
13 July 2020
PPE Gown

Serious shortages of PPE are thought to be a primary contributing factor.

The UK has recorded one of the highest number of COVID-19 health and social care worker deaths in the world, according to a new report.

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According to figures released by Amnesty International, the countries with the highest numbers of health worker deaths so far include Russia with 545 deaths, the UK with 540 deaths, and the US with 507 deaths.

Serious shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) in nearly all of the 63 countries and territories surveyed are thought to be a primary contributing factor.

Not only are health and care workers being placed at risk at work, Amnesty International also reports an increased stigma and incidents of violence because of their jobs.

The organisation has echoed calls for the Government to undertake an independent public review.

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Avoidable?

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said: “It is tragic that we’ve seen so many of our dedicated health and social care workers in England and Wales die from COVID-19.

“We have to understand whether these deaths were avoidable, and what led to this terrible outcome.

“There appears to have been a catastrophic failure to provide proper PPE and a failure to grapple with the alarmingly high death rates among BAME health workers.

“This crisis is far from over and an independent inquiry into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is urgently needed.

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“We must learn lessons from this current crisis if we want to prevent future unnecessary deaths.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the data was not an “accurate comparison”, adding; “by Amnesty’s own admission, this data is distorted by the fact the UK is one of the few countries to count social care worker deaths.

“We have continuously supplied PPE to the frontline throughout this unprecedented global pandemic, with over 2 billion items delivered and almost 28 billion items ordered to meet future demand, and we have prioritised testing for health and care workers from the outset.”

Putting their lives at risk.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said; “Health and social care workers have been on the front line throughout the COVID-19 crisis, putting their lives at risk as Government failed to provide adequate PPE, pay and testing.

“It’s no wonder so many have died.

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“And when our members have raised issues and asked for the proper protection – they’ve been bullied by line managers and faced threats of disciplinary action.

“We have reports of GMB members in hospitals and care homes who in desperation bought their own PPE but were told by managers that if they wore it they would face action as it scared the visitors and residents.

“The Government has utterly failed our health and social care workers. It’s no wonder so many have died.”

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