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Latest 15 May 2020

Inadequate PPE: Advice for doctors and nurses

Doctors and nurses are on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis. But there are consistent and ongoing failures to provide them with adequate PPE. 

At the request of Every Doctor, a campaign group of medical professionals working on the frontline, we have commissioned legal advice on the choices open to doctors and nurses if when confronted with the difficult decision whether to treat COVID-19 patients without adequate PPE. 

Our intention is to put into the hands of doctors and nurses the ability to make critical choices affecting their own lives, and those of their loved ones, whilst also meeting their regulatory, employment, and moral obligations to patients.

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The advice finds:

    • There will be certain circumstances where a doctor or nurse will act in accordance with their professional rules, and yet refuse to treat a Covid-19 patient because inadequate PPE puts either themselves or their family at risk.
    • There are legal protections in place for doctors and nurses who refuse to treat COVID-19 patients because of inadequate PPE.
    • There are further legal protections which may apply to doctors and nurses with protected characteristics (such as race, age, disability and pregnancy) who are exposed to particular risks because of inadequate PPE.

Right now, there is a lack of guidance from the regulators on this issue. It would be highly desirable for the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council to produce clear guidance on the circumstances in which doctors and nurses may take an informed and reasoned decision not to treat Covid-19 patients due to inadequate PPE.

The advice is by top employment and human rights barristers Schona Jolly QC and Dee Masters. It is important to note that this is general advice only. The full legal opinion can be found here.


The Good Law Project is only able to do work like this thanks to the support of thousands of people who make a regular donation. You can set up a regular donation to the Good Law Project below: 

We have also commissioned advice on the legal protections available to whistleblowers which can be seen here.