• Nurses at private hospital face disciplinary action for refusing to help with covid-19 patients
  • Source at Nuffield Health says there have been concerns around working without PPE
  • NMC is expected to release statement clarifying its stance on staff declining to work

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 HSJ, 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 effort 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.”

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

The Nursing and Midwifery Council published new guidance for nurses yesterday evening on what to do in the face of PPE shortages.

The guidance said: “To preserve safety you must take account of your own personal safety, the safety of others and the availability of other options for care. So, you shouldn’t feel that when making decisions, you have to place yourself or others at risk, or that you need to make these decisions on your own.”

The regulator added if a concern is raised about any NMC registrant refusing to treat a patient due to concerns over inadequate PPE, it will consider the context of the current pandemic and the risks the individual was exposed to and how they exercised and recorded their professional judgement.

This story was updated at 9:20 to include guidance published yesterday evening by the NMC.