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Department of Health (England)

Family of pharmacist who died from COVID-19 to bring legal claim against government

The son of a pharmacist who died from COVID-19 is pursuing legal action against the government for alleged failures in its handling of the pandemic.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

To learn more about coronavirus, please visit: https://www.rpharms.com/resources/pharmacy-guides/wuhan-novel-coronavirus

The son of Navin Shantilal Talati, a pharmacist from London who died from COVID-19 on 18 April 2020, is bringing a legal case against the government for alleged failures in its handling of the pandemic.

Minesh Talati told The Pharmaceutical Journal that he wants “transparency, clarification of the facts and accountability, not just for me, but for the tens of thousands of people who have lost loved ones”.

Sunil Abeyewickreme, partner in healthcare law at Gunnercooke LLP, who is representing Talati, said in an email to The Pharmaceutical Journal that the case aims to “hold the secretary of state for health and social care and its executive agency, Public Health England (PHE), to account, in respect of its failures to comply with their duties under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998 that have resulted in a large number of avoidable deaths, including a number of healthcare professionals that have lost their lives”.

Abeyewickreme said that an “unsatisfactory response” to a pre-action letter sent on 29 May 2020 “has left Dr Talati with no other choice but to pursue legal action”.

The intention is to bring the case to Court “in the next couple of weeks”, he said.

“Dr Talati is intending to bring a claim against the secretary of state for health and social care, in which the Court will be respectfully requested to make a declaration that the secretary of state was in breach of his statutory duties,” he added.

“It is being alleged that the secretary of state did not do all that could be reasonably expected of him to avoid a real and immediate risk to life from COVID-19, despite the knowledge that the government had at the time.”

Abeyewickreme said that the claim would require Matt Hancock, the health secretary, to disclose “all the relevant documents which will assist others who have been affected by COVID-19, and indeed will ensure that lessons are learned in order to prevent further avoidable deaths”.

Talati said that the health secretary “was made aware of the possibility of community transmission in early February and we have requested disclosure of key documents in this period”, but that the request had been refused leaving him with “no option but to pursue legal action on behalf of all families and healthcare professionals that have lost their lives”.

“Lives would have been lost under COVID-19, but I believe if the government and PHE had acted sooner with the information that they had, the death rate would have been substantially lower,” Talati said.

“Once these matters are addressed, hopefully we can prevent this from ever happening again. There will be more clusters of coronavirus and there may well be a second wave. We need to learn from the mistakes now, rather than later.”

The Department of Health and Social Care told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it was unable to comment on potential or ongoing legal action against the department.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208106

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