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Treat us like NHS staff, says care boss in call for coronavirus equipment

PUBLISHED: 11:38 30 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:38 30 March 2020

Care workers need better protection from coronavirus, says Norfolk adult social care director James Bullion. Picture: Getty Images/Stockphoto

Care workers need better protection from coronavirus, says Norfolk adult social care director James Bullion. Picture: Getty Images/Stockphoto

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Care workers should be tested for coronavirus like NHS staff and given more protective equipment, Norfolk’s social care chief said on Monday.

James Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said care homes had struggled to get personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks, and did not have enough to last them for the expected 12 weeks of the pandemic.

“We really have struggled with this nationally, both in the NHS and adult social care,” he told BBC Radio Norfolk. “There were a couple of weeks at the start where we didn’t have enough, but now it is starting to come in at care homes. But we are not massively confident that it is enough to last 12 weeks.”

“We have got to get the proper gear,” he added. “We are not there yet.”

Mr Bullion also confirmed reports that some staff had had to bring their own supplies of soap and hand gel because of a shortage, but said they had more supplies now.

Executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council James Bullion. Picture Norfolk County CouncilExecutive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council James Bullion. Picture Norfolk County Council

And he called for care workers to be tested for coronavirus in the same way as NHS staff will be, so that they could return to work.

“It is absolutely imperative we are dealt with on a par with NHS,” he said.

For hospitals to free up beds for the expected surge in coronavirus patients, other patients will need to be moved to care providers.

But Mr Bullion said: “If we can’t move people from hospitals to care because of a lack of PPE then you can see how that is not going to work.”

Norse, which is owned by the council and runs more than 20 care homes in Norfolk, has asked its staff to screen people going in and out of homes by taking their temperatures.

But one staff member told this newspaper they had not been given thermometers.

Martin Rix, chief operating officer at NorseCare, said they had struggled to get supplies but added: “No staff have been asked to undertake tasks without the appropriate equipment.”

He said they had recently received thermometers which were now being sent out.

Mr Rix added: “In addition to all those NHS staff currently working miracles, I hope that this crisis also highlights the significant contribution that people working in social care make to keep our most vulnerable people safe.”


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