Union seeks legal immunity for NHS medics in pandemic. 2020. (accessed 1 May 2020)

British Medical Association. COVID-19: refusing to treat where PPE is inadequate. 2020. (accessed 1 May 2020)

NHS staff told ’wear aprons’ as protective gowns run out. 2020. (accessed 1 May 2020)

Horsey K, Rackley E. Tort Law, 6th edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2019

As exposed health care workers seek legal remedies, who's liable for lack of personal protective equipment?. 2020. (accessed 1 May 2020)

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v MB. 2020;

Litigation and patient–carer, safety issues in the COVID-19 crisis

14 May 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 9


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses some recent reports on litigation issues and patient-health carer safety in the COVID-19 crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to raise a myriad of ethical, legal, and patient and staff safety issues. Unfortunately, there is little time to reflect on these. We are in the middle of a war and, as the virus rages on, new situations develop demanding quick reactions. Health professionals are heroically working in challenging environments and adjustments to traditional working practices often need to be made urgently. These include working in less than satisfactory environments often without some necessary personal protective equipment (PPE):

‘In a significant U-turn, PHE advised frontline staff to wear a flimsy plastic apron with coveralls when gowns ran out, in a move that doctors and nurses fear may lead to more of them contracting the virus and ultimately putting lives at risk.’

There is legislation and case law covering the employer–employee relationship, which may subsequently be tested in the courts in relation to COVID-19 and PPE when NHS staff and others have time to fully reflect on events. Horsey and Rackley (2019) discuss the nature of the employer's duty to exercise reasonable care for their employees' safety:

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Nursing and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for nurses. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to clinical or professional articles

  • Unlimited access to the latest news, blogs and video content