Bad Prescription: NHS Staff Prepare to Sue UK Gov’t Over Advice to Reuse PPE Amid COVID-19 Pandemic


Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government has had complaints over insufficient stocks of personal protective equipment, such as face masks, goggles, gloves, and gowns, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock advising NHS staff in April to reuse PPE if necessary.

UK doctors are preparing to sue the government over guidance issued earlier to front-line NHS staff and social care workers to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus pandemic, in what they say constitutes a breach of their human rights, reports Bloomberg.

The law firm Bindmans, which is representing the medical staff, was quoted as saying in a statement on 21 May that government recommendations to reuse protective clothing are in violation of official guidance from the World Health Organisation.

The law firm said in a statement that doctors Meenal Viz and Nishant Joshi, who spearhead the legal challenge, had sent an urgent pre-action letter to the government a month ago, but the response fell short of addressing all of their concerns.

“We asked simple questions one month ago, hoping for open dialogue… In that time, over 100 more healthcare and social workers have died. There is a human cost to this suffering,” the doctors said in the statement.

The doctors are reported as having requested that Bindmans speedily file legal proceedings once the government indicated they would miss their deadline for providing further information on the issue.

According to the law firm, the government has not allowed it to publish their initial response to the pre-action letter sent by the medics.

There has not yet been any official comment on the report from the UK Health Department.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reports had circulated in April regarding low supplies of critically-needed personal protective equipment for medical staff, such as face masks, goggles, gloves, and gowns.

In April, the Department of Health had published advice for all NHS staff to reuse protective equipment if necessary, even if they are labelled as single-use, blaming the shortages on enormous worldwide demand for the items.

The document, reported Sky News, had said the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “recognise that some compromise in process is needed” to cope with shortages.

In seeming acknowledgement that the guidelines contradict earlier recommendations, the document said “these are exceptional circumstances and do not reflect HSE’s standard approach.”



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