Matt Hancock wanted to ultimately decide "who should live and who should die" during the pandemic, the Covid inquiry has heard. 

The then Health Secretary wanted to have the final say over medical experts in a worst case scenario if hospitals became overwhelmed, a former NHS boss said.

Giving evidence at the inquiry on Thursday, Lord Simon Stevens said: "The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care took the position that in this situation he – rather than, say, the medical profession or the public – should ultimately decide who should live and who should die.

"Fortunately this horrible dilemma never crystallised."

The former NHS chief executive said: "I certainly wanted to discourage the idea that an individual secretary of state, other than in the most exceptional circumstances, should be deciding how care would be provided."

The Herald: Matt Hancock has recently appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity SAS: Who Dares WinsMatt Hancock has recently appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins (Image: Channel 4)

Lord Stevens also said senior ministers "sometimes avoided" Cobra meetings chaired by Mr Hancock in the start of the pandemic. 

He said: "When Cobra meetings were chaired by the health and social care secretary, other secretaries of state sometimes avoided attending and delegated to their junior ministers instead."

Asked by Andrew O'Connor KC if that was a reflection on Mr Hancock, Lord Stevens said: "I am not saying that was cause and effect, but that was the fact of the matter. I just observed that those two coincided."

Mr Hancock resigned from his role as Health Secretary after it emerged he had broken his own Covid rules by kissing his aide Gina Coladangelo in his ministerial office. 

The 45-year-old has since appeared on reality television shows I'm a Celebrity and Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins where he was recently sworn at by a female interrogator. 

The inquiry also heard evidence from Boris Johnson in the form of a statement. The former Prime Minister blamed "bed blocking" in the NHS for the first lockdown in March 2020. 

He said: "It was very frustrating to think that we were being forced to extreme measures to lock down the country and protect the NHS - because the NHS and social services had failed to grip the decades old problem of delayed discharges, commonly known as bed blocking."

But Lord Simon Stevens rejected this claim. He said: "We, and indeed he, were being told that if action was not taken on reducing the spread of coronavirus, there wouldn't be 30,000 hospital inpatients, there would be maybe 200,000 or 800,000 hospital inpatients.

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"So you can't say that you would be able to deal with 200,000 or 800,000 inpatients by reference to 30,000 blocked beds.

"Even if all of those 30,000 beds were freed up - for every one coronavirus patient who was then admitted to that bed, there would be another five patients who needed that care but weren't able to get it.

"So no, I don't think that is a fair statement in describing the decision calculus for the first wave."