Many social care workers feel ‘forgotten’ because they are being denied access to vital personal protective equipment during the coronavirus outbreak, a leading union has warned.
Care workers have reported to Unison that some managers are either refusing to issue face masks or not providing training in how to use them, and not supplying hand sanitiser.
This comes as a practice nurse has today written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and cabinet office minister Michael Gove to highlight the lack of appropriate PPE equipment in surgeries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘We are continually seeing adults and children with very little non-compliant PPE equipment,’ Clare Duffy, a nurse at Somerset Gardens family healthcare centre in London, wrote.
‘We are unable to do any home visits as we do not have the appropriate PPE equipment and this is putting extra pressure on other services. Patients and NHS staff are at extreme risk’.
Care workers have told Unison they have been given just plastic aprons and gloves to protect themselves against Covid-19 as they care for vulnerable and elderly patients.
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘They feel they’ve been forgotten about and are at the bottom of the pile despite doing a vital job.
‘Many are being denied access to vital protective kit that helps prevent the spread of the virus to them, their families and the people they look after,’ she added.
Unison said the lack of access to PPE has triggered ‘widespread anxiety’ among staff. It added some employees reported being asked to work even if they have underlying health issues and to bring their children to work if they cannot get childcare.
Some reports also suggested that managers were issuing advice that differs from official guidance on PPE.
One support worker told Unison: ‘There’s a woman with dementia (and symptoms) who doesn’t cover her mouth when coughing and constantly tries to touch staff.
‘I believe there’s a high risk of droplet transfer and have asked for eye-protection or a full-face visor only to be told they’re not required,’ they added.
Other issues include families still being allowed by managers to make daily visits to residents, despite official restrictions limiting movement and social interaction.
Dr Toni Hazell, a GP at the practice, shared Ms Duffy’s letter on Twitter and urged politicians to ‘get a grip’ on the situation.
Just sent by our nurse to @BorisJohnson @Number10press @UKParliament We are here on the front line and you can’t even be bothered to protect us. Come on politicians, get a grip. Please RT @haraestee @mancgp71 @jkaffash pic.twitter.com/YETrl1KNDY
— Toni Hazell (@tonihazellgp) April 1, 2020
The letter also raised a ‘major concern’ about the ‘complete lack of appropriate PPE equipment in the event of a cardiac arrest’.
‘This is a high risk procedure and must be addressed,’ it added.