Two married doctors who say they have been exposed to coronavirus patients are challenging government guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE).
Dr Nishant Joshi and Dr Meenal Viz, who is pregnant, are concerned PPE advice changed due to shortages and manufacturers have not been mobilised.
The couple said guidance differs from World Health Organisation (WHO) advice.
Public Health England (PHE) said the safety of frontline staff health and social care was its priority.
‘Unclear and inconsistent’
In a pre-action letter to the Department of Health, the doctors- who work at separate hospitals – said there was “great anxiety” among staff over safety protocols which seemed to change “without rhyme or reason”.
They claim the government’s stance is not in line with international standards, exposes healthcare workers to a greater risk of contracting Covid-19 and is unclear and inconsistent.
Speaking to BBC 5Live earlier, Dr Joshi said: “[We ask] at what stage were PPE guidelines downgraded, and was there science used to back that up?
“If we were making decisions based on shortages, then why haven’t British manufacturers been mobilised?”
He added that the “devil was in the detail”, referring to a statement from Public Health England (PHE), which said the Word Health Organisation “had confirmed that UK guidance is consistent with what it recommends for the highest risk procedures”.
“The highest risk procedures only take place in intensive care units, and that’s where all the PPE is being concentrated,” he added.
“What about my colleagues in maternity units, in A&E or any other department who have become unwell with coronavirus, quite possibly due to prolonged periods of high exposure to the virus?
“There have been chinks in their armour because they have not been protected adequately.”
Their letter also refers to the death of NHS staff who have tested positive with coronavirus, saying the the government owed an apology to their bereaved families.
The government has come in for mounting criticism over its failure to ensure NHS staff and those in care homes have adequate PPE.
Earlier this week, the British Medical Association said doctors on the frontline were “frightened” and being left with difficult choices about whether to risk their lives by treating patients because of a lack of kit.
The Department of Health said it could not comment on pending or potential legal action.