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Government promises free PPE for care homes

Old woman with mask in care home.


Care homes should not need to spend any money on PPE this winter as part of a government Covid-19 plan for adult social care.

Providers will also be told to ‘restrict all but essential movement of staff’ between care settings, backed by an extra £546m to help pay self-isolating care workers and ensure they only work in one care home.

In addition, a new adult social care chief nurse role will be introduced to provide more leadership for the sector, with recruitment beginning in October, as part of the plan announced on Friday.

A Department of Health and Care spokesperson told Nursing in Practice that the plan means care home will be able to ‘get all of their PPE needs sorted’ for free this winter.

Currently, providers can access limited emergency PPE at no cost through a government portal but otherwise must purchase their own, often at high prices.    

But under the plans, providers will be able to access the PPE they need each week – an amount that will depend on the size of their facility – through the portal, the spokesperson said.

Small orders for immediate supplies will be accepted at first before limits on the size of orders ‘increase in stages’, they added.

The DHSC also said that local authorities and the Care Quality Commission will be asked to ‘take strong action’ where improvement is required or staff movement is not being restricted.

This can include restricting a service’s operation, issuing warning notices or placing conditions on a provider’s registration. It comes amid evidence that temporary staff could have helped to spread the virus.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the Government will be ‘carefully monitoring’ the situation in care homes and promised ‘swift’ action if needed.

In areas of local lockdown, care homes have been told to impose visiting restrictions in all but exceptional circumstances, such as at the end of life.

Further details – including a timescale – will be released with the full plan, expected in the coming days.

Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, for not-for-profit care sector members, said the Government’s recognition of needs in the sector was ‘very positive’.

However, stressed the plan must also improve ‘the reward and recognition for our 1.5m strong care workforce, who continue to work 24/7 to provide care and support across our communities’.

‘The devil will, as always, be in the detail – we need to see the full plan now to ensure it meets expectations,’ she added.

Meanwhile, Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe warned that ‘a long-term commitment to social care reform is desperately needed’.

‘While this plan is a positive step, the pressures that existed in social care before the pandemic remain and have been exacerbated,’ she added.