Healthcare workers demand a public inquiry into hundreds of staff deaths and PPE failings

Despite a petition receiving over 120,000 signatures supporting a public inquiry, there has been no formal response from the government.

Ian Snug
13 June 2020
London: The Royal Courts of Justice, an imposing gothic law court building housing the UK's High Court and Court of Appeal

The inadequacy of PPE may have contributed to the tragic deaths of health and social care workers.

Frontline doctors and nurses are calling for a public inquiry into the hundreds of healthcare worker deaths and a systematic lack of protective equipment at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Doctors’ Association (DAUK) with support from the Good Law Project and charity Hourglass are calling for a judicial review into the decision by the government not to hold a public inquiry into the planning, procurement, and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and social care staff.

With healthcare being left “wearing visors made by teenagers on 3D printers” and “care workers being told to share the same mask”, the group has raised concerns that the inadequacy of PPE may have contributed wholly or in part to the tragic deaths of health and social care workers.

At least 245 health and social care workers are known to have died from COVID-19 – with some figures suggesting this is dramatically more.

Despite a petition receiving over 120,000 signatures supporting a public inquiry, there has been no formal response from the government.

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Dr Rinesh Parmar, Chair of the DAUK said: “With over 300 healthcare worker deaths due to Covid-19, the UK is an international outlier – only Italy has similar death rates amongst its healthcare staff. Yet the government have told us that looking into the issue now will distract officials, thus risk causing further deaths. This is a nonsense. It is our members and colleagues who are working non-stop to save lives – indeed, the only ones who have stopped are those who are shielding, sick or have died.

“There is simply no excuse for the government to bury its head in the sand and pretend that learning in the form of a public inquiry is not required. Now is precisely the time to hold a rapid, focused inquiry into the provision of PPE to healthcare workers. There may be a second wave, and it may be soon.

Before adding; “We know there has been an inadequate PPE supply of out of date and perishing stock; we know our standards have fallen short of WHO and European CDC guidance. It would be unconscionable to ask our NHS and care sector to face that second wave without learning lessons from the first. The pride of politicians and officials cannot take precedence over the lives and safety of our healthcare workers.”

Anthony Johnson, Lead Organiser for Nurses United UK, also commented; “The call was made and Nurses answered. I’ve got a lot of family in the military and where I come from, you don’t send people to the frontlines unprepared. Our colleagues were sacrificed for no good reason.

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“The least we can do is hold a public inquiry for them. What we really need though is the safety measures in place, like replenishing our stockpiles of PPE, to ensure that more lives aren’t put at risk by this Government”

A UK government spokesperson said: “The death of any healthcare worker is a tragedy and the whole country recognises the bravery of nurses, doctors, social care staff on the frontline.

 “At some point in the future there will be an opportunity for us to look back, to reflect and to learn some profound lessons.

“But at the moment, the most important thing to do is to focus on responding to the current situation.”

You can help by making a donation to their Crowd Justice legal fund

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