DAUK: Chief Coroner Reply

Last week the Doctors’ Association UK was the first to raise concerns about the Chief Coroner’s guidance. We were worried that health and social care worker deaths may not have inquests opened and evidence may potentially be lost. We have had concerns about the availability of personal protective equipment on the frontline and launched our #ProtectTheFrontline campaign.

It seems ludicrous that healthcare worker deaths would not consider the impact of PPE provision, both as a consequence of local or national decisions. Procurement has been nationally managed through the NHS supply chain, the guidance suggests that national policies should not be critiqued in an inquest. This would leave local NHS Trusts and GPs held accountable with little or no effect on national bodies such as Public Health England or the Department of Health and Social Care even though PPE procurement in many cases was out of their control.

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, President of the Doctors’ Association UK said:

“It is unthinkable that a lack of PPE would not factor into a coroner’s inquest into the death of each and every healthcare worker. Frontline NHS clinicians have put their lives on the line. Sadly, over 100 health and social care workers have paid the ultimate price, some sadly after raising concerns about a lack of PPE. It is now only right that their families and loved ones are granted a full investigation in order to get the answers they deserve which is why the Doctors’ Association UK have written to the Chief Coroner to outline our concerns.

Whilst DAUK has also been leading the call for a full public inquiry into the government’s failure to provide PPE and healthcare worker deaths we know that public inquiries have historically not provided families with the answers they have so desperately needed as we have seen in Grenfell.

Yet again we again seeing a situation where fundamental systemic failures are not being taken into account, in terms of both patient and staff safety. By not considering national provision of PPE and ever-changing guidance we fail to hold the government to account and to address the crux of the problem. We risk holding local hospitals and GPs accountable for a situation out of their control. There is a real lacuna between inquests and inquires that risks families falling between the cracks and their questions going unanswered.”