A photograph of a female medical professional wearing protective equipment, to depict the shortage of personal protective equipment for NHS staff.

Shortage of Personal Protective Equipment for NHS Staff Legal Challenge

So far the government has refused to conduct an investigation into the shortage of personal protective equipment for NHS staff. We have written previously about the risks that the lack of protective equipment poses to frontline health workers,

Now, the government are facing a legal challenge, to force an urgent inquiry into the lack of protective equipment.

What has happened?

A group made up of the Doctors’ Association UK, Hourglass and the Good Law Project have recently issued court proceedings against the Health Secretary. They are asking for a Judicial Review of the government’s decision not to have an inquiry about the shortage of personal protective equipment for NHS staff and other frontline health workers.

The money to bring the legal proceedings has been crowd funded with more than £55,000 donated, so far.

What is the claim for?

The group behind the claim, allege that the government’s refusal to conduct and inquiry into the shortage of personal protective equipment for NHS staff is in contravention or article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). They allege that the government’s failure to supply protective equipment means an inquiry must be undertaken.

Before proceedings were started the group gained almost 120,000 signatures on their petition, calling for an inquiry. However, this was not enough to convince the government an inquiry was necessary.

The group claim that as of 20 May 2020, 181 NHS staff and 131 social care workers have died in England. They say an urgent review is needed, so that lessons can be learned before a possible second wave of the virus.

Paul Bowen QC is the barrister representing the group. He said, in documents filed with the court that “…there is an urgent need to address the underlying reasons for the apparent failures to procure, stockpile, distribute and supply adequate PPE (both before and during the pandemic) that have led to the current shortage.”

What is a Judicial Review?

A Judicial Review is a process to challenge the lawfulness of decisions made by public authorities.

If a Judicial Review claim is successful, it usually means the initial decision will have to be made again. The group behind the claim hope that this will result in a different conclusion.

The government’s response

The government has said, before the case reached court, that the group have “no arguable case”. They also say that considering the issue now will distract officials and risk further loss of life.

The government say that measures are already in place to conduct the necessary investigations. The coroner, to investigate deaths; and The Health and Safety Executive, to bring legal proceedings, if lack of protective equipment was attributable to someone’s death.

 

 

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