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Has the government broken the law by putting NHS staff in harm's way?

We don’t yet know the number of NHS staff who have lost their lives in the battle against COVID-19. On Wednesday, Dominic Raab put the figure at 69, but the true figure is considered to be far greater. 

These deaths are not “natural” casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, they may be the result of a failure in the government’s duty to care for NHS staff, which is why it is vital it is properly investigated under the law.

Since the pandemic reached the UK, we have heard countless reports of doctors and nurses raising the alarm over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) when treating COVID-19 patients.

How many of these deaths could have been prevented had sufficient PPE been provided to NHS workers? And if there is a lack of PPE, how did this happen? The health secretary, Matt Hancock, says the biggest challenge is “one of distribution rather than one of supply”. Should more have been done to meet this challenge, and if so what? Does the government have a legal duty to do more to protect the lives of healthcare workers?

There must be investigations into the individual deaths of NHS workers, out of respect to them, and also so that future deaths can be prevented. The evidence appears to be that the government has failed to protect them from risk to their lives, and if that is the case then an investigation will be required by law.

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Source: The Guardian, 25 April 2020


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