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GP trainee launches legal action against Government over PPE guidance

A GP trainee and his doctor wife have launched a legal challenge against the Government over its guidance about personal protective equipment (PPE).

GP trainee Dr Nishant Joshi and clinical fellow in medicine Dr Meenal Viz, who is pregnant, are concerned that ‘current PPE guidance and availability’ is ‘inadequate’ to protect them, according to their solicitors.

Both have been exposed to patients with Covid-19 while employed by the NHS, solicitors Bindmans LLP added.

A spokesperson for Public Health England (PHE) responded by saying that the safety of frontline healthcare workers is its ‘number one priority’.

It comes as the BMA updated its guidance this week to say that GPs can refuse to treat patients if their PPE is ‘inadequate’, after PHE guidance recommended wide-ranging re-use of PPE amid shortages.

A statement from Bindmans LLP said: ‘Dr Meenal Viz and Dr Nishant Joshi are challenging the lawfulness of the PPE guidance published by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and PHE and the Government’s failures to source such PPE domestically and from the EU.’

They have also sought an ‘urgent’ review of the PPE guidance and have asked the health secretary to confirm that ‘he is urgently taking appropriate steps to source PPE’, it added.

Dr Viz and Dr Joshi said: ‘We are incredibly concerned at the ever-growing numbers of healthcare workers who are becoming seriously unwell and dying due to Covid-19. 

‘It is the Government’s duty to protect its healthcare workers and there is great anxiety amongst staff with regards to safety protocols that seem to change without rhyme or reason.’

They added: ‘All we ask for is accountability from decision-makers and that all evidence leading to these decisions should be published and transparent.’

A PHE spokesperson said: ‘The safety of those working on the frontline in health and social care is our number one priority. 

‘The UK guidance, written with NHS leaders and agreed by all four chief medicial officers, in consultation with royal and medical colleges, recommends the safest level of PPE.’

It added: ‘The World Health Organisation has confirmed that UK guidance is consistent with what it recommends for the highest risk procedures.’

Meanwhile, a BMA survey this week revealed that over a third of GPs still lack eye protection and ‘feel unprotected’ at work.  

The BMA called the situation ‘dire’ and said it was raising ‘serious concerns’ with the Government over PHE’s new guidance.

In Birmingham, political leaders warned that the city is due to run out of PPE, with the news coming as GP practices have been added to the list of settings the council should supply.