Paramedic denied face mask before dying from Covid on 52nd birthday

A paramedic was not given a face mask before he died from Covid, an inquest has heard, prompting a coroner to question NHS guidance.

Peter Hart died on his 52nd birthday on May 12, 2020, having fallen ill the previous month. He was likely infected during a shift at East Surrey Hospital.

At the time, only staff on Covid ‘red wards’ got masks despite World Health Organization warnings of how easily the airborne virus could spread.

And coroner Dr Karen Henderson said patients then suspected to have Covid ‘were not expected to wear masks. This is in effect a perfect storm’.

Recording a verdict of death by natural causes after catching Covid, she added: ‘It is difficult to comprehend why the national guidance said PPE (personal protective equipment) did not need to be used for all patients and healthcare workers at the earliest opportunity.’

The inquest is among the first into the deaths of more than 2,500 NHS and social care workers thought to have been victims of the virus up to February this year.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has claimed there was never a shortage of PPE in the NHS during the pandemic.

But critics say a dire lack of gear was behind the decision to limit top-grade protection to medics who were working with known Covid patients.

A public inquiry into the handling of the crisis will begin next year.

Father-of-three Mr Hart’s widow Helen, 54, said he gave up a career as a management consultant to become a paramedic before moving to A&E.

She added: ‘Pete retrained to do a job he absolutely loved and he paid for it with his life.’

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