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Something funny, Care Minister? Moment grinning MP Helen Whately LAUGHS as Piers Morgan confronts her over 4,000 coronavirus care home deaths in car-crash GMB interview

Something funny, Care Minister? Moment grinning MP Helen Whately LAUGHS as Piers Morgan confronts her over 4,000 coronavirus care home deaths in car-crash GMB interview
  • Good Morning Britain host slammed Helen Whately on the show today 
  • She insisted the government was working hard, which Piers said it should be
  • Whately then thanked him for acknowledging work, failing to answer questions  
  • Is your loved one or relative in a care home with coronavirus? Email stephen.matthews@mailonline.co.uk 
Care minister Helen Whately was blasted today for sniggering in a car crash TV interview as it was revealed a 'hidden epidemic' of coronavirus in nursing and old-people's homes may have cost 4,000 lives.
She was taken to task by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain as he grilled her over an exclusive report in the Daily Mail that deaths in care facilities are being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing. 
The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales in the two weeks up to April 3. 
But industry figures say the true count is much higher – potentially 4,000 since the outbreak started. 
GPs are also sometimes reluctant to write Covid-19 on death certificates and figures from care homes are not included in the official daily toll.
Mrs Whately, 43, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, was sent out to face the media this morning as anger and questions increased over the vulnerability of care home residents amid a lack of testing and personal protective equipment  (PPE) for staff.
She has only been the Social Care Minister since February, when she was appointed in Boris Johnson's Cabinet reshuffle. 
Appearing on GMB she insisted that the Government has been working hard to tackle the crisis, but Piers insisted she answer questions about deaths in care homes, telling her he expected her to be working hard.
He asked: 'Is it true that 4,000 people have died in care home? Yes or no?' 
The Social Care Minister denied that she had been laughing during the interview on today's Good Morning Britain
The Social Care Minister denied that she had been laughing during the interview on today's Good Morning Britain 
She said her laughter was a reaction to him showing her the front page of the newspaper, when she was unable to see him due to not having a screen visible showing the GMB host.
She said her laughter was a reaction to him showing her the front page of the newspaper, when she was unable to see him due to not having a screen visible showing the GMB host.
The Social Care Minister then thanked him for acknowledging what the government is doing and said the work was 'really important'.
Piers interrupted to say tell her that it was more important that 4,000 people have died, only for the Minister to start laughing. The host said: 'Why are you laughing? What do you find funny about this?'
She said: 'I don't think it's funny in the slightest.'
He responded: 'Well why do you keep laughing then?'
'I'm not laughing at all,' she said.
Piers replied: 'I literally just asked you is it true that 4,000 elderly people have died in hosp and all you can do is laugh what's the matter with you?'
As she continued to insist she wasn't laughing and asked Piers not to suggest she had been, he said: 'We literally just saw you.' 
But she said her laughter was a reaction to him showing her the front page of the newspaper, when she was unable to see him due to not having a screen visible showing the GMB host.
The interview sparked a row on social media between those who supported Mr Morgan and those saying he had been unfair.
Mal Smith wrote: 'Care Minister? This gets more Orwellian every day, she's the Minister of Couldn't Care Less.'
And Terence West added: 'Shocking that a government minister laughs and smirks rather than answers important questions, after all you are a public servant being paid for with tax payers money!'
But Diane Key was among those who thought differently, saying: 'Piers went over the top with this interview!'
A spokeswoman for Ofcom said the regulator has received 643 complaints about the interview.
Later Mr Morgan wrote on Twitter: 'Apparently some people found my interview with Care minister @Helen-Whately today 'uncomfortable'.
'For perspective, it probably wasn't quite as 'uncomfortable' as what our under-protected NHS & carer frontline heroes are going through.'
Campaigners and MPs warned yesterday of an 'unfolding horror' that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims. 
Ministers face urgent calls to get a grip and get virus tests for all staff and residents with symptoms, more protection gear and a Cabinet minister to deal with the crisis. 
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pledged action on testing and is also expected to outline a plan to address the crisis in a social care strategy.
All care home residents and staff with symptoms of Covid-19 are to be tested as the Government faces a backlash over its handling of the growing crisis. 
In a separate interview Mrs Whately told BBC Breakfast: 'We have been doing everything that we can to protect those really vulnerable people living in care homes or receiving care at home.

The doctors' daughter who entered politics to improve the NHS

In another life Helen Whately could have been on the other side of the coronavirus debate - directly helping patients in hospital.
The mother of three, 43, has been the MP for the affluent seat of Faversham and Mid Kent since the 2015 election. 
But her parents are both doctors and she came close to following in their footsteps. 
However, in her maiden Commons'  speech in 2015 she revealed her upbringing had led her to a different path.
'I come from a family of doctors, and I nearly followed in their footsteps, but time spent in hospitals as a teenager—not because I was ill; I just did lots of work experience—triggered a different ambition,' she said.
'I wanted to improve the National Health Service itself. After a stint in telecoms, I spent nearly a decade working in healthcare.'
Mrs Whately was tipped in 2008 as a rising Tory star by society journal Tatler.
After studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford she worked as a management consultant and an advisor to shadow culture secretary Hugo Swire she contested Kingston and Surbiton  in 2010, losing heavily to current Lib Dem acting leader Ed Davey.
She was chosen for her Kent seat on an all-female shortlist for 2015 as the incumbent Hugh Robertson stepped down.
She was briefly made a deputy chairwoman of the Conservative Party in the dying days of Theresa May's administration last year, before becoming a junior minister at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last September.
In February this year she was promoted to Social care Minister, as the coronavirus outbreak began to become a global concern. 
She has been married to Marcus since 2005. 
Chris Schmid told MailOnline his great aunt Isabel Francis, 94, passed away in Fieldway care home in Mitcham, South London on Friday, April 10. Debbie Cholwill said her mother, who had dementia and was living in a care home, passed away on April 10 after testing positive for coronavirusDebbie Cholwill said her mother, who had dementia and was living  in a care home, passed away on April 10 after testing positive for coronavirus
Chris Schmid told MailOnline his great aunt Isabel Francis, 94, passed away in Fieldway care home in Mitcham, South London on Friday, April 10. Debbie Cholwill said her mother, who had dementia and was living in a care home, passed away on April 10 after testing positive for coronavirus
George Hillhouse's 74-year-old mother, Helen Smith, died at Almond Court care home in Drumchapel, Glasgow, on SaturdayMark Gordon fears his mother Susan (above), a 76-year-old terminally-ill cancer patient, is too weak to fight off coronavirus after contracting the infection while at a Tayside care home. He claims staff did not use PPE when dealing with patients
George Hillhouse's 74-year-old mother, Helen Smith, died at Almond Court care home in Drumchapel, Glasgow, on Saturday. Mark Gordon fears his mother Susan (above), a 76-year-old terminally-ill cancer patient, is too weak to fight off coronavirus after contracting the infection while at a Tayside care home. He claims staff did not use PPE when dealing with patients
The interview sparked a row on social media between those who supported Mr Morgan and those saying he had been unfair
The interview sparked a row on social media between those who supported Mr Morgan and those saying he had been unfair
'From the moment it looked like coronavirus was coming our way... we have been working really hard to do whatever we can to protect those receiving care from this truly awful, horrible illness.'
She added it had been 'harder to get heard' on social care issues than for the NHS and said the Government had 'taken huge steps to get PPE out to the care sector'.
Care home operators complain they are being overlooked, with desperate short - ages of testing and staff safety equipment making it extremely hard to stop the dis - ease ravaging their sites. 
Jeremy Richardson, chief executive of Four Seasons, which has 191 care homes across the UK, told the Guardian that the official figures 'materially understated' the crisis, adding: 'From colleagues in the sector and in Four Seasons' experience, it is closer to 60 per cent (infection rate).' 
It came as one care home lost a fifth of it's residents and the manager says she is fighting a losing battle against the deadly pandemic.
Anita Peet, who is in charge of Wren Hall Nursing Home has criticised health chiefs for their lack of help in fighting the virus.
 Ten residents died at the weekend from the virus, and a further 15 are currently in isolation.
She told The Sun: 'We are just having deaths all the time.
'Are people dispensable? It feels as if people are not worth saving. But that is certainly not how we feel.'
'It's getting harder and harder every day. We're fighting a losing battle.
'It is awful that people are not being able to prepare for this, to spend quality time with loved ones. It is making the whole situation more challenging.' 
The care home has already paid out £9,000 for protective equipment, and getting a steady supply of PPE equipment was difficult.

HIDDEN EPIDEMIC OF CORONAVIRUS IN CARE HOMES MAY HAVE COST 4,000 LIVES, EXPERTS WARN 

A 'hidden epidemic' of coronavirus in care homes may have cost 4,000 lives, experts warned last night. 
They believe deaths are being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing.
GPs are also sometimes reluctant to write COVID-19 on death certificates and figures from care homes are not included in the official daily toll. 
The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales up to April 3. 
But industry figures say the true count is much higher – potentially 4,000 since the outbreak started. 
Campaigners and MPs warned yesterday of an 'unfolding horror' that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims. 
Ministers face urgent calls to get a grip and get virus tests for all staff and residents with symptoms, more protection gear and a Cabinet minister to deal with the crisis.  
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pledged action on testing and is also expected to outline a plan to address the crisis in a social care strategy. 
Care home operators complain they are being overlooked, with desperate short - ages of testing and staff safety equipment making it extremely hard to stop the disease ravaging their sites. 
She added: ''The first delivery (from the government) was 160 masks. I told them we were using 312 a day. I waited four days and got 400. The supply chain is completely useless.' 
Ministers are coming under pressure to include care home deaths in the daily figures. 
Mr Sunak and public health officials faced a string of questions over the issue at a press briefing last night. 
Organisations including the Alzheimer's Society and Care England, which represents social care organisations, believe the care home death toll is being hugely under-played by a lack of tests. 

Why can't patients in care homes go to empty Nightingales? Healthy residents 'are being sacrificed to coronavirus' after government ORDERS homes to take infected patients to free up NHS beds amid claims 4,000 lives have been lost

     Furious families have today accused the Government of 'sacrificing' Britain's elderly in the fight against coronavirus by discharging COVID-19 patients into care homes and signing the 'death warrant' of the most vulnerable in society. 
    NHS hospitals have been ordered to drastically free up beds, meaning thousands of patients have been released, with scores of elderly Britons meeting the criteria sent to care homes dotted across the UK.
    In a revolt against the 'dangerous' drive, some care homes have already refused to accept patients over coronavirus fears - not everyone is swabbed for the killer virus before they are discharged from hospital.  
    But one home in Essex was allegedly forced to accept an elderly COVID-19 patient 'against their wishes' before they were re-admitted to hospital the next day. The daughter of a 96-year-old resident accused Number 10 of 'recklessly exposing' others to the infection. 
    In Herefordshire, a dementia-stricken 78-year-old was discharged from hospital to a care home, without her family being told. She also had a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) notice along with the orders not to send back to hospital if she caught coronavirus.
    Demanding action from Downing Street, her daughter said: 'My mother has worked all her life and paid into the NHS they do not have the right to sign her death warrant because she's old and has dementia.'
    Despite hospitals being told to free up space, it was revealed last night that London's Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel Centre sat almost empty with just 19 coronavirus patients treated over the Easter weekend. 
    It comes after care industry bosses yesterday suggested that two thirds of all homes across Britain have recorded coronavirus cases. Around 500,000 people are in care homes in the UK.
    Grim statistics released yesterday also showed the number of coronavirus deaths in care homes rose ten-fold by the start of April, up from just 20 for the week ending March 27.
    But the true scale of the coronavirus catastrophe in Britain's care homes is a mystery because the figures released by the Office for National Statistics are almost two weeks out-of-date.  
    Number 10 is under mounting pressure to start recording all coronavirus deaths, wherever they happen, amid the accusations the true toll is being swept under the carpet.
    The UK's care home regulator, the Care Quality Commission, announced it would step in to collect daily numbers of coronavirus deaths. 
    Helen Buniak revealed her 96-year-old mother's home was 'ordered' to admit a coronavirus patient from hospital 'against their wishes' on April 8.
    She alleged that the Birchwood Residential Care Home, in Ilford, was told it was 'Government policy'.
    The discharged patient only stayed in the facility for one day before they were re-admitted to hospital, Ms Buniak claimed. 
    She told MailOnline: 'How shocking and completely reckless to allow the virus to enter into a care home that was clear of the virus.
    'However much the staff did their best to isolate the patient, there is still a serious risk that the virus could spread and cause multiple deaths.' 
    Ms Buniak said it seemed like the lives of older people in care homes are 'invisible' and argued: 'The Government is willing to sacrifice them.' 
    'The Government's so called policy to shield those most vulnerable clearly does not apply to the elderly in care homes.'
    The Birchwood care home, which looks after around 40 elderly patients, is one of dozens to have limited routine visits from family members.  
    Another MailOnline reader revealed her elderly dementia-stricken mother was discharged to a care home, without checking with her. 
    Her mother, of Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, was stuck in hospital because health officials had yet to find a care package for her.
    She told MailOnline: 'Due to the COVID-19 outbreak most care homes in Hereford with places refused to take her so she was there a while. 
    'The hospital were getting really annoyed because they wanted her out as soon as possible and the bed freed up.
    'On Sunday (April 12) they discharged her to a care home in Worcestershire without consulting me or checking the home could meet her complex needs.'
    The woman - who wanted to remain anonymous - added: 'She arrived with a DNR, which said do not transfer back to hospital if she contracts COVID-19. 
    'My mother has worked all her life and paid into the NHS they do not have the right to sign her death warrant because she's old and has dementia.

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