Coronavirus: Agincare defends increasing care home charges

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image captionDerek Luckhurst blamed staff costs and spiralling prices for PPE for the charges

A care home operator has defended increasing charges introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Families of residents at Agincare homes say they received an extra daily charge of £6.47 at the start of April.

The daughter of a resident in a home in Bournemouth branded the charge "outrageous".

The Dorset-based firm blamed the rise in staff costs as well as the price of personal protection equipment (PPE) during the crisis.

Agincare runs 23 care homes in Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, Derby, Kent, Surrey and Wiltshire.

Janette Urquijo, whose 93-year-old mother lives at an Agincare home in Bournemouth, said: "I have received an invoice for £194.10 for April in addition to her monthly fee (£4,158) which was increased by 5% on 1 April.

"The staff did not have any PPE before 15 April.

"I think it is outrageous that they are charging my mother £6.47 per day for the staff to wear PPE and for two weeks when the staff did not wear PPE."

Agincare chairman Derek Luckhurst said the extra charge was mainly to pay for agency staff to cover those who are self-isolating and to pay for statutory sick pay.

He said PPE costs were "less than 30% of the total cost" the company was charging extra for, even though it is paying £70,000 extra a month for PPE due to increases in price, and that staff wear PPE "365 days a year".

Mr Luckhurst said he was "anticipating that staffing costs and the cost price of PPE will come down" and that as a consequence the decrease will be reflected in the extra charge to residents.

The Department for Health (DfH) confirmed the only free-of-charge means for care homes to access PPE were for emergencies.

A DfH spokesman said the department was "working at pace with wholesalers to ensure a longer-term supply" of PPE.

The National Care Association said it was "unsustainable" that care homes are having to pay extra for PPE, while the government has removed VAT on the equipment for the NHS.

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