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Due to the continuing rise of coronavirus cases, Chief medical officers have warned that hospitals in England could be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients in the next few weeks. Groups representing doctors fear that legal repercussions are imminent if they are forced to choose which patients should be prioritised for care.

The governments has stated that the law will protect medical staff, but this assurance has provided little reassurance regarding facing criminal and civil consequences from decisions beyond their control. The doctors’ groups want the government to provide more protection from clinical negligence claims if they are forced to make life-or-death decisions.

A letter has been sent to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, signed by 7 medical groups, stating that whilst doctors should not be above the law, an emergency legislation should be passed to protect them from inappropriate legal challenges.

Barristers have already been requested to advise NHS trusts on how to lawfully refuse treatment to those suffering from coronavirus in hospital, as there are not enough staff or resources to provide care for everyone.

It will be interesting to see the government’s position on potential emergency legislation and the impact on future clinical negligence claims. These decisions couldhave an huge effect on individuals requiring treatment for the virus.

If you or a loved one has missed treatment for illness, it has been delayed and you believe this has had an impact on the recovery or loss of life, please contact our Clinical Negligence team by calling 01484 821 500, or fill out our online enquiry form and a member of the team will be in touch at a convenient time for you.