Care home industry leaders have voiced concerns that orders of supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) intended to protect staff and residents in social care settings are being requisitioned by the NHS for use in hospitals.
At a meeting of the Health and Social Care Select Committee on 26 March, Care England’s chief executive, which represents care homes told MPs: “Some of my members are having things they had ordered, sometime before this crisis, ‘taken at the borders’ for the NHS. So, we have got a situation where the normal areas of supply are not getting through.
“This morning, I heard from one case where the provider got a letter from their normal supplier where they said they would not be supplying any more because it was all going to the NHS. Obviously the NHS has needs but so does social care”
Chronic shortages mean that care homes are increasingly reluctant to take in new residents, and that government targets to discharge older people from hospital are unlikely to be met.
The lack of personal protective equipment for NHS and social care staff is ‘unacceptable’, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.
RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair added that all staff should be provided with aprons, gloves and masks as a ‘minimum’.
In a statement, she said: ‘It is completely unacceptable that weeks into this crisis, there are colleagues in all settings – hospitals, community or care homes – who have not been provided with personal protective equipment.
‘Every minute we wait is a minute too long. All nursing staff, no matter where they work, must feel safe.’
She added: ‘The RCN has said repeatedly that we will not accept anything less than aprons, gloves and masks for all staff, in all settings.
‘But this is a minimum – and that is why we are so disappointed even that level of protection has yet to be provided.’
Labour MP James Murray, a member of the Commons health and social care select committee, has written to the health secretary Matt Hancock to ask him to urgently review the government’s policy for supplying PPE to care homes.
He said his local authority, Ealing, had informed him that the PPE requirements for the 50 care homes in the borough amounted to 20,000 masks a week – 5,000 more than ministers had guaranteed. A fifth of those homes had already shut their doors to new admissions because of an outbreak of Covid-19.
Murray wrote: “I appreciate that there are enormous pressures on every aspect of the health and social care system, and those working in other parts of the system – not least NHS workers on the frontline in hospitals – desperately need PPE too. However, I am concerned that without the government coordinating a plan for care homes’ supply of PPE, the situation will not improve.”