United Kingdom

Britain's Care home staff say they are at 'breaking point' and fear being overwhelmed by coronavirus

Care homes up and down the country are at risk of buckling under the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic, with staff warning they're at 'breaking point'.

Homes are facing major staff shortages, with Methodist Homes (MHA) saying 750 of its staff, more than one in ten from its 220 facilities, are unable to work.

In Barking, East London, Labour MP Margaret Hodge's survey found eight out of ten care homes were struggling with shortages of essential items, including goggles.

While the country scrambles to get enough PPE like the kit pictured above, Unison have urged the government to make sure carers are also protected. Dave Prentis said on Tuesday: 'Every public service worker without adequate PPE is a potential spreader of this deadly virus'

It comes as charities, including St John's Ambulance, say they risk folding due to a sudden drop in income as charity shops close and events such as the London Marathon are cancelled.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a new support package for charities facing imminent closure.

Charity bosses say the cost of losing such vital funding has left them predicting £4bn losses.

St John Ambulance Chief Executive Martin Houghton-Brown said the country's leading first aid charity has funds to last until August. While children's charity Barnado's has put 2,500 staff on furlough.

Sam Monaghan is chief executive of care home charity MHA, which has seen nine of its residents die from coronavirus. He told The Guardian: 'The adult social care sector must not be treated as the poor relation of the NHS. 

'Our people are also working day and night with those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus and we are yet to be included in the testing that is being rolled out for the NHS.

'We are anxious that we may see an increase in staff expressing concern about coming into work without being supplied with adequate equipment.'

First aid charity St John Ambulance - which is helping the NHS manage the crisis - is on track to go bust in August without help from the government

On Tuesday, National Council for Voluntary Organisation's chief, Karl Wilding, told a Government select committee: 'Charities are facing a real crunch, with more pressure on the services they offer at the same time as losing out on fundraising income.

'This is something that's affecting all charities, large and small, and they urgently need answers.'

According to the Office of National Statistics, a fifth of all confirmed and suspected deaths happened in care homes, dospices, domestic homes and other locations aside from hospitals, up to March 20.

On Tuesday Unison leader Dave Prentis penned a letter to PM Boris Johnson, stressing the importance of protecting care workers.

Unison boss Dave Prentis penned a letter to Boris Johnson on Tuesday, warning him many public service employees 'feel like they've been forgotten' amid concerns about safety

Mr Prentis wrote: 'Public service employees are still in their workplaces because they need and want to be. But their selfless acts must not place them ​at risk.

“Too many feel like they’ve been forgotten – their safety ​a mere afterthought, despite the critical work they continue to do.

“Many promises have been made by your government, but promises don’t protect people. Every public service worker without adequate PPE is a potential spreader of this deadly virus, or even a ​future patient.

“Every public service worker who catches the virus is another vital cog removed from the machinery of a society already struggling to cope.' 

Businesses hike the price of gloves, masks and aprons by up to 1000% 

By Martin Robinson

Feckless businesses are taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis in the NHS by ramping up the prices of gloves, masks and aprons by up to 1,000 per cent, it was revealed today.

Care homes say they could go to the wall because they are being 'ripped off' in order to properly protect their workers.

Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, the largest representative body for independent social care services in the UK, warned today: 'The consequences will be closures of services because we won't be able to pay staff'. 

More than 10,000 front line NHS staff have written to the Prime Minister to demand proper protective equipment amid growing anger that a lack of supplies is putting lives at risk.  

Katrina Green, who runs a care home in Paignton, Devon, revealed today that most protective items are now ten times more expensive, and hand sanitiser usually £19 for 5litres is up to £179.  

She said: 'They are ripping us off. It’s daylight robbery. They are robbing us blind', adding: 'We have got confirmed cases in staff, patients and family members. We had people symptomatic and we just couldn’t go in. So we had to cancel care. These people were left at home without any care'.

Mark Adams, CEO of Community Integrated Care, the biggest care company in the country has revealed that basic PPE prices are rocketing

But in more positive news Loch Lomond whisky group has produced more than 15,000 bottles of hand sanitiser for free, sending them out on lorries last night.

Mark Adams,  CEO of Community Integrated Care, the biggest care company in the country told the BBC: 'Gloves – they're up by 30 per cent in price, aprons up by 166 per cent and masks going up by over 1,000 per cent'.

Leader of Somerset Council, David Fothergill, said that care homes and care provider will need financial support.

He said: 'It’s really important that we work with care providers to make sure their costs are being reimbursed either now or in the future'. 

Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, last night admitted there had been 'distribution issues' but insisted the UK had enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to cope with the pandemic.

Millions of masks, gloves, aprons and other items were delivered to hospitals on Monday, the Government said, with the Army helping to get them out nationwide.

Import taxes on such clothing, ventilators and virus testing kits have also been waived to ease supply, the Chancellor said.

But, despite this, unions representing healthcare workers say their members are complaining in droves about shortages of safety equipment. The GMB said some social care staff were being expected to make visits with just a plastic apron and a pair of gloves – 'the same protection that they use to make a sandwich.'

The letter to Boris Johnson has been co-ordinated by EveryDoctor, a membership organisation of UK doctors which campaigns on safety in the NHS.

It says NHS guidelines on what medics should wear to treat Covid-19 patients are not stringent enough and should be brought into line with World Health Organisation recommendations. The statement has been signed by more than 20,000 medics, including 10,000 who work in the NHS, in less than two days.

A senior nurse yesterday told the Daily Mail community hospital staff had been left as 'sitting ducks' for coronavirus because of a lack of specialist masks and goggles.

A man wearing PPE is seen inside St Thomas' Hospital in London as NHS staff insist they are not getting the protection

The healthcare worker, who has more than 20 years' experience, said she was forced to take blood from a suspected Covid-19 patient, who later tested positive, at the community hospital in North Wales where she works, with just a 'flimsy' paper mask and gloves. Only after managers complained and two more cases were confirmed were more staff measured up for the PPE, she added.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: 'The full weight of the Government is behind the PPE effort with PPE being sent out 24 hours a day and the Army helping with deliveries.'

Millions of items of personal protective equipment were delivered to NHS trusts on Monday, Downing Street has said, with the army helping to ensure supplies reach frontline workers.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing on Tuesday: 'Yesterday's deliveries of PPE included more than 2.5 million aprons, 870,000 eye protectors, 218,000 respiratory masks - they are FFP2 and FFP3 masks - one million surgical masks and 11 million gloves.

'The full weight of Government is behind the PPE efforts, with PPE being sent out 24 hours a day and the army helping with deliveries.

'There have been occasional issues with deliveries being received out of hours by NHS trusts but this is what we are working on to address and resolve.'

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