Coroner slams government as A&E doctor denied face mask died of CovidSeptember 26, 2022
Coroner slams government for failing to protect father-of-three A&E medic, 52, who died of Covid after he was denied face mask amid PPE shortage at start of pandemic
- A&E worker and father-of-three Peter Hart, 52, fell ill at the start of the pandemic
- Mr Hart was given no face mask at East Surrey Hospital, an inquest has heard
- Coroner’s verdict was death from natural causes after catching Covid at work
A coroner probing the Covid death of an NHS hero who was not given a face mask in hospital following the outbreak of the virus has blasted the Government for failing to protect him.
A&E worker and father-of-three Peter Hart, 52, fell ill at the start of the pandemic in April 2020 while thousands of staff were denied vital PPE.
It was probable that Mr Hart, given no face mask, caught the virus while working as an emergency care practitioner at East Surrey Hospital, an inquest has heard, as his widow said he loved his job but ‘paid for it with his life’.
Coroner Dr Karen Henderson said she found it difficult to comprehend the policy decision when the public were told stay indoors to stop the virus whilst health workers were exposed to it.
Only staff on Covid ‘red wards’ got masks despite World Health Organisation warnings of how easily the airborne virus could spread.
The coroner said patients then suspected to have Covid ‘were not expected to wear masks. This is in effect a perfect storm’.
NHS worker Peter Hart, 52, fell ill at the start of the pandemic in April 2020 while thousands of staff were denied vital PPE- he is pictured here with his daughter Lauren in 2019
She added: ‘It is difficult to comprehend why the national guidance said PPE did not need to be used for all patients and healthcare workers at the earliest opportunity.’
Her verdict was death from natural causes after catching Covid at work.
Mr Hart’s inquest is among the first into NHS workers killed by the virus. Huge shortfalls in PPE in hospitals early in the pandemic meant only those working with known Covid patients had access to top-grade protection.
Some had basic paper masks but many workers were treating patients in wards wearing only surgical gloves.
Mr Hart died on May 12, on his 52nd birthday, a month after becoming infected.
His widow Helen, 54, blames the Government for her husband’s death.
Mr Hart had taken a wage cut in his mid thirties to switch from being a management consultant to working first as paramedic and then switching to working in A&E.
Mrs Hart said: ‘It’s been dreadful for the whole family. Our youngest was only nine years old. Pete retrained to do a job he absolutely loved and he paid for it with his life.
‘He wasn’t given the protection he needed. We find it unfathomable the national guidance didn’t require front line healthcare workers to wear masks.’
Mr Hart, an advanced care practitioner, was not permitted PPE because he was treating patients thought virus-free although they could have been infected without showing symptoms.
Government policy dictated only staff dealing with known cases on so-called red wards needed to be masked.
Rules for all frontline healthcare staff to wear face masks were brought in on April 14, 2020, but by this point Mr Hart, of Redhill, Surrey, was on a ventilator.
Mr Hart had two adult children working in the NHS – Daniel, 26, now a doctor, and Lauren 25, then an A&E receptionist – as well as daughter, Eliana, now 11 years old.
Daniel had just passed his final exams when he lost his dad. He said: ‘He was an amazing father and we believe not enough care was taken to protect him. Everyone knows how transmissible viruses can be.
‘And this was clearly one out of the ordinary so why staff weren’t offered protection is hard to believe.’
It was probable that Mr Hart, given no face mask, caught the virus while working at East Surrey Hospital, an inquest has heard (file photo)
Between March 2020 and February 2022 more than 2,500 NHS and social care workers died of Covid.
Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a joint committee of MPs last June there had never been a national shortage of PPE. He insisted the Government had done ‘everything [it] possibly could to protect staff’.
A public inquiry into the Government’s pandemic response will begin next year. Hundreds of families who lost loved ones will be represented by law firms.
The result of the inquiry could lead to bereaved families of health workers taking legal action against the Government.
A poll of thousands of doctors at the end of April 2020 showed access to PPE for frontline NHS staff was getting worse despite Government promises to increase supplies.
The Royal College of Physicians said at the time that those working in high-risk areas still could not always access long-sleeved disposable gowns and full-face face visors. It said the shortages had worsened in the previous three weeks.
In a survey of 2,129 college members, 27 per cent reported being unable to access the kit they needed for managing Covid-19 patients.
Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said at the time: ‘This survey shows the reality of the situation facing hospital doctors.
‘The lack of PPE remains their biggest concern and it is truly terrible that supply has worsened over the past three weeks rather than improved.
‘Healthcare workers risking their lives couldn’t care less how many billion pieces of PPE have been ordered or supplied. If it isn’t there when they need it, they are in harm’s way.’
A separate poll of 675 GPs in April 2020 found that one in four had seen coronavirus patients face to face without adequate PPE due to dire shortages.
The survey, carried out by the GP magazine Pulse, also found that more than three-quarters feared for their health or life.
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