Doctors refusing to treat patients because of PPE should be spared investigation, says MPS

Doctors who decide they cannot safely treat a Covid-19 patient due to lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) should not be held accountable if the patient subsequently comes to harm, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) has said. 

The medical defence organisation is calling for urgent reassurances that doctors will not be subjected to regulatory or disciplinary action by their employers or the GMC if they take the difficult decision not to treat a patient without adequate PPE.

The call comes as a Royal College of Physicians survey of over 2,000 doctors shows that a third of doctors treating patients in high-risk Covid-19 settings are often still unable to access adequate PPE. The death toll among frontline health and care workers has also now surpassed 100.

MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry said he hoped to see a statement of reassurance from the GMC and employers as a matter of urgency.

‘It is appalling enough that doctors are placed in the position of having to choose between treating patients and keeping themselves and their other patients safe – this stress should not be compounded by the prospect of being brought before a regulatory or disciplinary tribunal,’ he said.

‘MPS members who are faced with regulatory or employment action arising from a decision to not see a patient because they lacked the PPE to practise safely, can come to us for advice, support and representation.  However, it should not come to this; it is not fair for doctors to be held personally accountable for adverse outcomes that are ultimately the result of poor PPE provision.’