Matt Hancock said he has seen no evidence to suggest any medics died due to a failure to provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Health Secretary drew criticism on Thursday for telling MPs that there was never a national shortage of PPE, despite doctors and nurses having been forced to improvise.
He acknowledged to a select committee investigating the Covid-19 response that there were “individual challenges”, but he suggested they were issues with distribution and not supply.
Questioned about the higher death rate among frontline medics, Mr Hancock said: “We’ve looked into this and there is no evidence that I have seen that a shortage of PPE provision led to anyone dying of Covid. That’s from the evidence I have seen.”
He accepted “distribution was a challenge to all areas” and that a supply shortage was “pretty close sometimes”.
Pressed about nurses having to use bin bags instead of PPE, he said: “I have acknowledged throughout there were individual challenges at getting hold of PPE but at a national level there was never a point where we ran out.”
Labour’s shadow mental health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who is a frontline medic, accused Mr Hancock of “trying to rewrite history”.
She said: “It’s insulting to all the frontline staff who didn’t have the right masks or who were given inferior gowns. They were put at unnecessary risk.”
Rachel Harrison, national officer at the GMB union, said: “Matt Hancock either has no idea what happened under his watch during the pandemic or he is lying through his teeth.
“Our NHS members have been let down by the Government throughout the crisis and lack of proper PPE is probably their number one complaint.
“Many were left terrified for their lives treating Covid-positive patients with either inadequate or non-existent PPE.”