Doctors and campaigners have launched a High Court challenge against the Government over its refusal to hold an urgent public inquiry into PPE shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A claim for judicial review has been lodged with the court by the Doctors’ Association UK, Hourglass – a charity which works to prevent abuse and neglect of older people – and legal pressure group the Good Law Project.
They argue that Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s refusal to commit to an enhanced investigation into whether failings in procurement, stockpiling, distribution and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) may have contributed to the deaths or serious illnesses of NHS and care home staff and patients from Covid-19 is unlawful.
Scores of frontline healthcare workers have died while battling the Covid-19 crisis, while widespread complaints over PPE shortages for medics have been commonplace.
The group, which is crowdfunding its case, says an inquiry which complies with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the right to life, should be automatic and is required in circumstances where those deaths and illnesses have been “caused or contributed to” by the state.
They also say such an investigation must take place “as soon as reasonably practicable” because there is an “urgent need to gather evidence and learn lessons” now, ahead of a possible second or third spike of infection.
In documents filed with the court, Paul Bowen QC, representing the group, said: “In the particular context of this case, 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.
“That urgency arises, in part, from the need to learn lessons from any previous failures, in light of the possibility that a second or third wave of the pandemic may follow.”
The group claims in the documents that there have been at least 181 deaths of NHS staff and 131 deaths of social care workers in England, as of May 20.