Care homes battle shortage of staff and equipment in coronavirus fight
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Urgent supplies of equipment to protect care staff against coronavirus should arrive in Norfolk on Tuesday, giving some relief to workers.
But Norfolk’s social care boss warned that even with the arrival, the county’s care staff were not getting enough personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, aprons and masks.
James Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said: “Providers are telling us they are within days of running out. It is an urgent situation.”
On Monday health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said care homes would get millions of items of PPE within days.
Mr Bullion said Norfolk was expecting a delivery on Tuesday, but he cautioned: “It will take us through the short term, but we are not out of the woods.”
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Describing PPE shortages as “the greatest threat” to keeping vulnerable people at home and discharging patients from hospital, he urged care homes to let the council know what they needed.
Mr Bullion said the council was also asking local companies to provide PPE which they did not need any more.
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It is also in touch with manufacturers in China about supplying equipment directly to Norfolk.
“Care staff are ready to help the NHS with the surge we are expecting, but what has been bedevilling us is the provision of PPE,” he said.
Mr Bullion also revealed that around 20pc of care staff in Norfolk are either off sick or self-isolating.
Combined with vacancy rates of 10pc before the crisis began, it has led to a desperate shortage of staff, he said.
The council is advertising for people who have left the care industry to come back, and for workers who have been furloughed from other sectors to join.
In London around one in 10 care homes have reported coronavirus cases and Mr Bullion said without testing of staff and more PPE that situation is likely to be replicated in Norfolk.
Along with PPE, the government has faced criticism for not testing enough NHS staff who are off work.
At the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, staff testing will start this week, but the hospital warned it would initially be on a “very limited” scale and only for staff at home with no symptoms.