Husband and wife doctors launch legal action against Government PPE guidance

24 April 2020, 06:21

Doctor Meenal Viz holds a banner as she protests outside Downing Street in London, as the country is in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus,
Doctor Meenal Viz holds a banner as she protests outside Downing Street in London, as the country is in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus,. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Two married doctors are launching legal action against the Government's advice over personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus crisis.

The couple claim they have been exposed to Covid-19 patients and are challenging the lawfulness of the Department of Health and Public Health England's current PPE guidance on when and how equipment is used, as well as equipment availability.

Meenal Viz and Nishant Joshi are claiming the current guidance is unclear, exposes healthcare workers to a higher risk of contracting the virus, and does not address increased risks to BAME people in the field.

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They also say advice for UK medics differs from both World Health Organisation guidelines and the UK's own health and safety legislation.

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Dr Viz, who is more than six months pregnant, and Dr Joshi added that the guidance does not make clear that healthcare workers have a right to refuse to work without adequate PPE.

The two doctors are calling for an urgent review of the guidance and confirmation from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that the Government is urgently sourcing more equipment.

In a statement, the couple 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.

"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 Government needs to protect us, so that we can protect you."

In response to the pre-action letter, a Public Health England spokesman said: "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."