The ‘heartbreaking’ story of an NHS doctor’s death puts the Conservative government to shame

UK government coronavirus logo, reading 'Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives'
Tracy Keeling

A doctor who warned Boris Johnson that NHS staff needed vital personal protective equipment (PPE) has died. Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, who wrote to the PM on 18 March, had been diagnosed with coronavirus (Covid-19) and spent 15 days in hospital.

Coventry MP Zarah Sultana described his death as “heartbreaking”. It’s certainly not, however, the only agonising development to happen in the NHS recently. And the Conservative government should be ashamed of itself.

A “human right”

In his message to Johnson, Chowdhury urged the PM to “urgently” ensure that “each and every NHS worker in the UK” had PPE as they “are in direct contact with patients”. The urologist argued that healthcare workers have a “human right like others to live in this world disease-free with our family and children”. He was only 53 years old.

As many pointed out on Twitter, his death is a disgraceful injustice:

Other workers who have tried to raise alarm bells over the lack of PPE have also since been diagnosed with coronavirus. Three nurses who posted a photo of themselves in makeshift PPE – which they’d constructed out of clinical waste bags – have tested positive for it:

Tip of the iceberg

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) recently submitted a letter to the Commons Health Committee, which is chaired by Jeremy Hunt. In the letter, the RCN’s chief executive Donna Kinnair wrote:

Our safety and ability to care for patients is being fundamentally compromised by the lack of adequate and correct supplies of vital personal protective equipment[PPE] and the slow and small-scale roll out of Covid-19 testing.

Our members are facing impossible decisions between their own or their family’s health and their sense of duty. The distribution and adequacy of PPE has led nursing staff to share equipment, buy their own supplies or to reuse single-use PPE.

YouGov addressed the NHS’s lack of PPE in its latest poll:

It carried out the poll between 2 and 7 April. Only 14% of respondents said they had “the correct PPE in good supply”. Meanwhile, 27% of NHS workers said “they do not have access to the correct PPE”, i.e. the sort that would protect them from coronavirus. Add to this the fact that 37% of the workers polled say they treat patients with and without coronavirus symptoms and it’s a recipe for disaster.

A grotesque government ‘wrong’

The government regularly screams about the ‘millions of pieces’ of PPE it’s provided to NHS workers:

But with staff continuing to report that they are left without adequate protection, it’s clearly not enough. By not stepping up to the plate and making sure NHS staff have what they need, the government is endangering the lives of NHS workers and the patients they treat. In turn, anyone who is in contact with those patients is also at risk, and on and on it goes. So the lack of PPE is a threat to the vast majority of people, ultimately.

That’s betrayal on a shocking scale.

Featured image via NHS/YouTube

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us