Private hospital threatens nurses refusing to treat Covid-19 patients

16th April 2020 / United Kingdom
Private hospital threatens nurses refusing to treat Covid-19 patients

By Rebecca Thomas: Nurses at a hospital run by a major private healthcare provider have been threatened with disciplinary action after apparently refusing to treat coronavirus patients, according to a leaked email.

The email, seen by Health Service Journal, was sent on Sunday by a senior matron at Nuffield Health’s Cheltenham Hospital, which has been made available to the NHS during the Covid-19 outbreak.

She said: “I’m hoping to get another undisturbed day as I’m going to have to formally take on everyone who won’t help on the C19 side.

“Unfortunately, it will be a disciplinary matter and referral to the [Nursing and Midwifery Council]. I really don’t want to go down that route but they’re giving me little choice.”

It is not clear why staff had refused to help with Covid-19 work, but one staff member who spoke with HSJ said nurses had objected to working without personal protective equipment.

A spokesman for Nuffield Health said: “The health and safety of our people, patients and wider communities is our first priority. Our Cheltenham hospital team is proud to be working with the NHS to care for Covid-19 patients in the national effort against the pandemic.

We can categorically state that we have been provided with a full supply of PPE from the local NHS trust so that all members of the team are protected when they treat Covid-19 patients. The team has also been given the appropriate training to ensure they can carry out their roles safely.”

HSJ has previously reported staff within two NHS trusts refused to see patients due to concerns over national guidance on PPE.

Last week, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing put out guidance for doctors and nurses respectively which said they can refuse to treat patients if their PPE is inadequate.

In its guidance, the RCN said: “If you have exhausted all other measures to reduce the risk and you have not been given appropriate PPE in line with the UK infection prevention and control guidance, you are entitled to refuse to work.”

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HSJ understands the NMC is due to put out a statement shortly on the issue, amid growing concerns from clinicians they could be targeted.

So far, 30 NHS staff have died from Covid-19, although it is not known whether all caught the virus while working.


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