NHS doctors crowd fund for legal fight over PPE dangers
Two global Indian doctors on the frontlines of the National Health Service (NHS) fight against the coronavirus pandemic are taking their campaign for safe personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines to the High Court in London.
Husband-wife couple, Dr Nishant Joshi and Dr Meenal Viz, have raised over £40,500 in pledges for their judicial review case against the UK government after receiving “unconvincing responses” to a pre-action legal letter last month.
Their challenge is against the government’s guidance on PPE, including surgical gowns, which applies to health and social care workers. They fear it reduces the requirement to wear PPE and allows for re-use of some PPE, which goes against World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance and puts key workers at risk, breaching their legal protections at work and their human rights.
Viz, who is pregnant with the couple’s first baby due in a few months’ time, said they had initially set out to seek answers to some “simple questions” from the Department of Health and Social Care, hoping for an “open dialogue and swift resolution” with UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“In that time, over one hundred more healthcare and social workers have died. There is a human cost to this suffering – we have fielded many calls from bereaved families, many of whom have questions about PPE and systemic failings,” said the couple.
The couple’s legal team have also raised concerns around transparency after the Department of Health held back on making its responses public and will push in any proceedings to ensure such documents are made public in the national interest.
Jamie Potter, Partner at Bindmans LLP and the couple’s solicitor, said: “The government continue to seek to avoid transparency as to the risks such workers are facing with different levels of PPE and confirmation they are entitled to refuse to work where they consider the risks too great.”
Estelle Dehon, their barrister, adds: “This case is about protecting frontline health and social care workers and ensuring they have the minimal protections they need to work as safely as possible.
“In the face of what the government itself calls ‘acute shortages’ of PPE, there remain some baseline protections which the government must respect.”
The Department of Health has not commented on the legal challenge directly but has previously stressed that measures are in place to minimise risk.
Nishant Joshi, a general practitioner (GP) trainee from Bedfordshire in south-east England, has been leading a social media campaign for weeks over the safety guidance and supply of PPE for medics. Wife Meenal Viz, a clinical fellow in medicine, was pictured last month outside Downing Street dressed in full medical scrubs and a surgical mask holding a placard reading: “Protect Healthcare Workers”.
She has now released a moving video entitled ‘Letter To My Unborn Child’, which captures the impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers, as well as her own personal worries about bringing up her first born during a pandemic.
by Aditi Khanna