"It is the Government's duty to protect its healthcare workers"
A doctor couple are suing the UK Government over the lawfulness of current guidance and failure to provide PPE for NHS staff on the frontline treating Coronavirus.
Dr Meenal Viz, a clinical fellow in medicine, and GP trainee Dr Nishant Joshi have brought a complaint against the Department of Health and Public Health England.
Both NHS doctors say they have been exposed to patients with Coronavirus. They have challenged the lawfulness of current PPE guidance on when and how equipment is used, as well as its availability.
Dr Viz appeared on Good Morning Britain on April 24, 2020, after their pre-action letter was announced the day before.
The couple have challenged the guidance on the basis that it differs from both World Health Organisation guidelines and the UK’s own health and safety legislation.
In protest of the current guidance, Dr Viz stood outside Downing Street holding a placard.
She and her husband say that it exposes healthcare workers to a higher risk of contracting the virus and that it does not address the increased risks to BAME medics.
Dr Joshi and Dr Viz, who is more than six months pregnant, added that the guidelines do not make it clear that healthcare workers have a right to refuse to work without sufficient PPE.
The couple is calling for the guidance to be reviewed. They are also looking for confirmation from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that the UK Government is urgently getting more equipment.
They said in a statement: “We are incredibly concerned at the ever-growing numbers of healthcare workers who are becoming seriously unwell and dying due to Coronavirus.
“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.
“Every time a healthcare worker becomes hospitalised with COVID-19, it exacts an extraordinary toll on our friends, family and colleagues.
“To sedate and ventilate your own colleague takes a mental toll on the entire workforce. The UK Government needs to protect us so that we can protect you.”
During the pandemic, there have been more than 80 confirmed deaths of frontline NHS workers.
Dr Joshi, who works at Luton and Dunstable general hospital, said that everyone is “scared to speak up publicly”.
“So many of my friends are doctors, nurses and healthcare workers on the frontline. We are all prepared to do that.”
“But it’s not going to just be a question of sacrificing ourselves, it’s the risk we pose to everyone we come into contact with which includes some of the most vulnerable people in Britain.”
Due to the increasing demand for NHS supplies, British Airways have increased the number of cargo-only flights from China to the UK to 21 a week, up from 13.
However, reports by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) indicated that 32,000 medical gowns had been shipped from Turkey. The shipment was supposed to have 400,000.
The HSJ cited senior sources in the NHS. They estimate that the gowns would last a few hours.
A spokesperson for Public Health England responded to the pre-action letter:
“The safety of those working on the front line in health and social care is our number one priority.
“The UK guidance, written with NHS leaders and agreed by all four chief medical officers, in consultation with royal and medical colleges, recommends the safest level of personal protective equipment.
“The WHO has confirmed that UK guidance is consistent with what it recommends for the highest risk procedures.”