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24th April 2020

Science Coronavirus: Doctors launch legal challenge over PPE guidance

Science Coronavirus: Doctors launch legal challenge over PPE guidance

Science

science Meenal Viz and Nishant JoshiImage copyright
Meenal Viz and Nishant Joshi

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Dr Meenal Viz and Dr Nishant Joshi work at separate hospitals in the Midlands and East of England.

Two married doctors who say they have been exposed to coronavirus patients are challenging government guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE).

Dr Nishant Joshi and Dr Meenal Viz, who is pregnant, are concerned PPE advice has changed “without rhyme or reason”.

The couple also said guidance in England differs from World Health Organization (WHO) advice.

Public Health England (PHE) said the safety of front-line health and social care staff was its priority.

Science ‘Unclear and inconsistent’

In a pre-action legal letter to the Department of Health, the doctors – who work at separate hospitals – said there was “great anxiety” among staff over safety protocols.

They claimed the government’s stance was not in line with international standards, was unclear and inconsistent and exposed healthcare workers to a greater risk of contracting Covid-19.

Speaking to BBC 5Live earlier, Dr Joshi said: “[We ask] at what stage were PPE guidelines downgraded, and was there science used to back that up?

“If we were making decisions based on shortages, then why haven’t British manufacturers been mobilised?”

He said that the “devil was in the detail”, referring to a statement from Public Health England (PHE), which said the Word Health Organisation “had confirmed that UK guidance is consistent with what it recommends for the highest-risk procedures”.

“Those procedures only take place in intensive care units, and that’s where all the PPE is being concentrated,” he said.

“What about my colleagues in maternity units, in A&E or any other department who have become unwell with coronavirus, quite possibly due to prolonged periods of high exposure to the virus?

“There have been chinks in their armour because they have not been protected adequately.”

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Meenal Viz

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Dr Viz protested outside Downing Street on Sunday

Their letter also refers to the death of NHS staff who have tested positive for coronavirus, saying the the government owed an apology to their bereaved families.

Ministers have come in for mounting criticism over failures to ensure NHS staff and those in care homes have adequate PPE.

Earlier this week, the British Medical Association said doctors on the front line were “frightened” and being left with difficult choices about whether to risk their lives by treating patients because of a lack of kit.

The Department of Health said it could not comment on pending or potential legal action.

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