Essex GP confirmed as first NHS doctor killed by COVID-19

A 76-year-old Essex GP has been confirmed as the first NHS doctor to die after being infected with coronavirus.

Hospital (Photo: George Clerk/Getty Images)
Hospital (Photo: George Clerk/Getty Images)

GPonline reported last week that Dr Habib Zaidi - described by patients as a 'lovely man' and the 'best doctor you could ask for', had died on 25 March after experiencing symptoms described by his daughter - also a GP - as 'textbook' for COVID-19.

NHS officials have now confirmed he tested positive for coronavirus - making Dr Zaidi the first NHS doctor to lose his life after being infected during the growing outbreak. Dr Zaidi, a managing partner at the Eastwood Group Practice in Leigh-on-Sea - where his wife Talat and daughter Sarah also worked - died at Southend Hospital, in Essex, 24 hours after becoming ill on 24 March.

NHS officials also confirmed over the weekend that a hospital doctor - ENT consultant Mr Amged El-Hawrani - had died after being infected with coronavirus. The 55-year-old Midlands-based consultant was the first case confirmed as linked to coronavirus - but died on the evening of Saturday 28 March at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, days after Dr Zaidi.

Coronavirus

Doctors' leaders have called for improved protection for frontline NHS staff amid ongoing concerns over shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

A GPonline survey this month found that more than four in five GPs were not satisfied with either the quality or quantity of PPE supplied to their practice during the coronavirus outbreak.

BMA leaders have called for urgent steps to address shortages of PPE and to bring equipment available for UK doctors in line with that recommended by the WHO.

Essex NHS officials and patients have paid tribute to Dr Zaidi. NHS Southend CCG chair Dr Jose Garcia-Lobera said: 'Our heartfelt condolences go out to Dr Zaidi's family at this devastating time. A hugely respected, selfless man who dedicated his life to helping others.

Respected family doctor

'Dr Zaidi will always be remembered for his significant contribution to local health services through his long career as a GP. His loss is deeply felt by his staff, fellow clinicians and the wider community. Our thoughts are with his family, who we hope, in time, can take comfort from the incredible legacy he has left behind.'

COVID-19 incident director for Public Health England East Dr Hamid Mahgoub said: 'We are saddened by the death of GP from Essex and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. The individual did not see patients while they were symptomatic. His close contacts that may have seen him whilst he was symptomatic have been following the self-isolation guidance.'

Patients paid tribute to Dr Zaidi on social media - calling him a 'pillar of our community', and a 'good doctor and lovely man'.

On patient wrote on Facebook: 'Our family doctor - I am broken hearted, his wife, his daughter Sarah and the Zaidis before him have been a pillar of our community for many years. I at this time am genuinely deeply saddened and send condolences to his family and to all that knew and loved him.'

Tributes

Another patient said Dr Zaidi had been his family doctor 'since our sons were born 40-odd years ago'.Calling him a 'good doctor and a lovely man', the patient said he had 'helped me through some tough periods in my life'.

'We both are genuinely upset and to Mrs Zaidi and his daughter Sarah - both doctors - our condolences and sorrow for your loss,' the patient wrote.

Another patient wrote on Facebook: 'This is awful. He was the best doctor you could ask for. He truly made you feel like he cared about you and your family. No rushing you in and out. A true professional who will be missed.'

University Hospitals of Derby and Burton (UHDB) chief executive Gavin Boyle paid tribute to Mr El-Hawrani as 'an extremely hard working consultant and ENT trainer who was well liked at the trust and particularly at Queen’s Hospital Burton where he worked'.

CMO Professor Chris Whitty said: 'I share the deep sadness about the death of Mr El-Hawrani that will be felt by the whole medical profession and wider NHS, and send condolences to his family on behalf of all of us.'

'COVID-19 is a risk to everyone, but clinical NHS staff are at the front line in battling this disease. Everyone is rightly inspired by the skill and dedication of our NHS staff like Mr El-Hawrani.'

Following the deaths, a joint statement from Doctors Association UK president Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden and chair Dr Rinesh Parmar expressed deep sympathy and said: 'Doctors hold a vocation for everything that they do and feel a strong moral duty towards their patients. The dedication of NHS staff in this pandemic knows no bounds. However the government must recognise this commitment to the NHS and ensure doctors are adequately protected when putting themselves in harms way.

'It is simply unacceptable that some doctors still do not have access to adequate personal protective equipment. This is crucial, especially for the highest risk procedures. This now must be made a priority for this government in protecting the lives of the life-savers.'

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