On Thursday 23 April, Dr Meenal Viz and Dr Nishant Joshi sent pre-action correspondence to the Government concerning the lawfulness of the PPE guidance published by the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England, as well as the Government’s inadequate efforts to source such PPE domestically and from the EU. Given the urgency of the matter, they sought a response by Monday 28 April 2020.
Despite PHE responding to the challenge in the media the following morning, the response was not passed to Government lawyers until close of business on the Friday afternoon.
On the afternoon of Monday 27 April, Recognising the unnecessary tragedy of the failure to provide adequate PPE, the Government announced a £60,000 pay out to the families of healthcare and social care workers who have died from COVID-19. That evening, Panorama broadcast a damning investigation into the Government’s sourcing of PPE and the reasons it has downgraded its Guidance for PPE.
Despite all of the above, and the risks the country’s NHS workers are taking on a daily basis without adequate protection, and even without adequate guidance as to what that protection should be and the risks they face, the Government has sought to delay its response on this fundamental issue until Friday 1 May.
Jamie Potter, Partner at Bindmans LLP and solicitor for Dr Viz and Dr Joshi, said:
Dr Viz and Dr Joshi are asking the Government to take action now to protect healthcare workers, their families and ultimately their patients. There needs to be a public inquiry in due course, but what those workers deserve right now is transparency as to the risks they are facing with different levels of PPE and confirmation they are entitled to refuse to work where they consider the risks too great. They should be entitled to compliance with WHO guidelines, not just for the “highest risk procedures”, but simply while they are at the Hospital facing an increased viral load whatever they are doing. They should also be entitled to greater efforts to source PPE domestically and from the EU, irrespective of the political situation. That is what this legal challenge is seeking to achieve.
Dr Viz said:
This is not about us as individuals. We are not suing the Government for money we are bringing a Judicial Review to challenge the guidance and supply which creates the failure to provide of PPE. This has proven to be a huge safety risk all healthcare workers. We have asked very simple questions that should be able to be answered in one short response. It’s not acceptable to delay justice for doctors, nurses and all other healthcare workers.
You can donate to Dr Viz and Dr Joshi’s crowdfunding campaign here.