A group of doctors has launched a legal bid to bring about an inquiry into failures to provide adequate PPE for NHS and social care workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), in conjunction with The Good Law Project and safer ageing charity Hourglass, has instructed solicitors Bindmans LLP and barrister Paul Bowen QC of Brick Court Chambers to issue judicial review proceedings.
They said this comes after the Government refused to launch an urgent inquiry into the ‘inadequate supply’ of protective equipment and whether it ’caused or contributed’ to the deaths of over 300 healthcare workers.
The legal challenge ‘sets out the Department of Health’s legal obligation under the Human Rights Act 1998 and Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to commence an immediate and independent investigation into whether failures to provide adequate PPE may have caused or contributed to the deaths or serious illness from Covid-19 of workers in the health and social care sectors, as well as patients’, said DAUK.
Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the DAUK, said: ‘With over 300 healthcare worker deaths due to Covid-19, the UK is an international outlier – only Italy has similar death rates amongst its healthcare staff. Yet the government have told us that looking into the issue now will distract officials, thus risk causing further deaths.
‘This is a nonsense. It is our members and colleagues who are working non-stop to save lives – indeed, the only ones who have stopped are those who are shielding, sick or have died.’
‘Now is precisely the time to hold a rapid, focused inquiry into the provision of PPE to healthcare workers. There may be a second wave, and it may be soon.’
Dr Parmar, a specialty registrar in anaesthetics in the West Midlands, said this comes as ‘there has been an inadequate supply of out of date and perishing stock’ and that UK standards ‘have fallen short of WHO and European CDC guidance’.
He added: ‘It would be unconscionable to ask our NHS and care sector to face that second wave without learning lessons from the first. The pride of politicians and officials cannot take precedence over the lives and safety of our healthcare workers.’
The news comes as GPs in England have been told that they will not be reimbursed if they decide to order PPE at safety standards recommended by WHO, only for that which is recommended by PHE. They were also told to focus on hand hygiene and avoid an ‘over-reliance’ on PPE.