Coronavirus: Nearly 400 care groups 'face protection shortages'

By Alison Holt
Social Affairs Correspondent, BBC News

Media caption,
'It's vital we have the equipment we need to keep people safe'

Almost 400 care companies which provide home support across the UK have told the BBC they still do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE).

Without protection, providers say they may not be able to care for people awaiting hospital discharge.

Of 481 providers, 381 - 80% - said they did not have enough PPE to be able to support older and vulnerable people.

The government said it was working "around the clock" to give the sector the equipment it needs.

The BBC sent questions to the nearly 3,000 members of the UK Homecare Association.

About a quarter of respondents said they have either run out of masks or have less than a week's supply left.

Others said they were struggling to get the gloves and aprons they needed for staff who go from one client's home to the next to support them with washing, dressing and eating.

Just under a third of the home care providers the BBC heard from were looking after people with Covid-19 symptoms.

Suzanne Catterall, a senior care worker at Westmorland Homecare in Cumbria, speaking after visiting the first of seven clients she would see during her day, said: "I needed to use seven pairs of gloves on one call and an apron.

"This is due to cleaning, then doing personal care for the client, including applying three different creams, and preparing food."

Dr Chris Moss, who runs Westmorland Homecare, said they have had to get supplies of PPE from local nail bars and vets' practices.

They have had some government supplies, he said, but estimated their stock would last about a week.

"Without having it you risk transmission, you risk making more of society unwell and you put more pressure on the NHS," he added.

And care providers warned that without the right protective equipment, they would have to make hard decisions about who they support.

Media caption,
Carer breaks down after Tesco queue skip rejection

Raina Summerson, chief executive of Agincare - one of the largest independent care companies, said: "If we cannot get access to PPE and follow public health guidance safely, we will be left in no position but to say we cannot accept people who are COVID 19 positive, because we will not have the equipment to deliver their care safely."

Nearly all of the firms said they had some staff self-isolating, with a handful estimating that half their workforce was unavailable.

A further 621 UK deaths were announced on Sunday, bringing the nation's total to 4,934.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was providing more than 26,000 pieces of PPE to social care settings, including care homes, home care providers and hospices.

A spokesperson said: "We are working with the military and established distributors to ensure PPE is available to all staff fighting this virus on the frontline."

Thirteen residents at a Glasgow care home died in one week following a suspected outbreak of coronavirus. Two of the staff members tested positive and received hospital treatment.