‘Supply your own’ - care workers hit by shortages of soap and hand gel
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Healthcare workers were told by the council to provide their own soap and hand sanitiser due to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), it has emerged.
Care workers visiting people in their homes who are self-isolating due to the coronavirus outbreak were asked to supply their own soap, wash their hands in cafes, and “visit shops regularly” to ensure a supply of products.
But county council bosses insisted that PPE shortages were a national problem but said they were “already seeing results” after supplies arrived at the weekend.
A spokesman said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure staff have the equipment they need to keep safe in their work.”
A letter from the council’s head of HR, Derryth Wright, seen by this newspaper, stated that where contact with a person in self-isolation was critical, staff should use “pragmatic alternatives”.
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Care workers were told to “supply your own soap rather than using the householders” and “advised to purchase paper towels, kitchen roll, or napkins”.
The letter, understood to have been sent to staff late last week, also advised care workers to “find somewhere to wash your hands such as public facilities, or a café”.
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It said: “Colleagues can be asked to purchase directly from supermarkets, local shops or well known (trusted) on-line suppliers.
“You may need to visit shops regularly and often to check for availability and secure stock.”
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: “These are some of the appalling and worrying local consequences of this government’s failure to get a timely grip on so many of the absolute basics of responding to this pandemic. How have we ended up with workers who keep us safe having to put themselves at avoidable risk to do their jobs?”
Craig Chalmers, Norfolk County Council’s director of community social work, said: “The national shortage of protective equipment is well known, with the parts of the country that saw the earliest outbreaks initially receiving priority. The health of vulnerable clients is a top priority for us and our dedicated teams continue to provide critical services.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure frontline staff have the equipment they need to keep safe in their work. We’re already seeing the results of this, with our supplies bolstered b a delivery of a thousand bottles of hand sanitiser and a consignment of gloves just this weekend.”
He added: “In the interim we have provided practical guidance to our teams which included asking them to purchase supplies whenever and wherever they could, for which they would then be reimbursed to provide peace of mind to carers on the ground.”