Two NHS doctors, who are married to each other and expecting a baby, are suing the Government over the lawfulness of current guidance and a failure to source PPE for coronavirus frontline .
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 and challenge 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 this morning after their pre-action letter was announced yesterday.
The couple are challenging the guidance on the basis that it differs from both World Health Organisation guidelines and the UK’s own health and safety legislation.
Dr Viz held a placard outside Downing Street in protest of the current guidance, which her and her husband argue is unclear.
The couple said it exposes healthcare workers to a higher risk of contracting the virus, and does not address increased risks to BAME people in the field.
Dr Joshi and Dr Viz, who is more than six months pregnant, 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 review of the guidance and confirmation from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that the Government is urgently sourcing more equipment.
In a statement they said: ‘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 Government needs to protect us, so that we can protect you.’
More than 80 frontline NHS workers are confirmed to have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Joshi works at Luton and Dunstable general hospital and said 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,’ Dr Joshi said to The Guardian last month.
British Airways are increasing the number of cargo-only flights from China to the UK to 21 a week, up from only 13 last week. This decision comes as the demand continues to rise for NHS supplies.
Meanwhile reports by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) on Thursday suggested that of the much-anticipated shipment of 400,000 medical gowns arriving from Turkey, only 32,000 had been delivered.
The HSJ cited senior sources in NHS procurement, who estimate that the gowns will last health service workers just a few hours.
Another RAF plane understood to be carrying further personal protective equipment (PPE) from Turkey landed at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Thursday evening, with at least one more flight expected overnight.
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.’