Nottingham City Council is calling on the Government to provide the right level and quality of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline carers at the right time, as they heroically carry out their duties during the coronavirus pandemic.
Council Leader Cllr David Mellen, who has written to Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock to raise his concerns, has said the Government has “broken its promises” on PPE, describing its provision as “inadequate and incomplete,” which is leaving the social care sector without confidence of a secure ongoing supply.
The council is echoing the position of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services which has today raised serious concerns about the Government’s handling of PPE and the support available to staff and others in caring roles in the community. The Local Government Association has also called on the Government to do more to address the issue.
Social care has been at the top of the council’s thinking and planning since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. The authority’s business continuity plans and diligent planning meant some resilience was built in, meaning existing stocks of PPE could be quickly and effectively mobilised. This means that the council currently has sufficient PPE to ensure that all staff who need it have it and nobody working on the homecare frontline will be asked to go to work without PPE if they require it to carry out their duties safely. There are over 400 members of council staff, over 4,000 workers in private settings and around 1,200 personal assistants in Nottingham working on the frontline, with thousands of individuals also providing care to neighbours or loved ones.
But despite the council following national guidance to the letter, its experience is that PPE is not arriving when scheduled, is significantly less than was expected and not available in a differing sizes. For example, the first shipment of PPE that arrived for the Nottinghamshire Local Resilience Forum was only 40% of what was expected. The ongoing supply of PPE therefore remains a serious concern.
Councillor Mellen said: “Despite frequent assurances from Government, it’s been haphazard, inadequate and incomplete. They have broken promises, overplaying the focus on the NHS while underplaying the role of the wider care sector. There can be nothing more fundamentally important than protecting those caring for the most vulnerable in our society.
“I have written to Matt Hancock to outline these concerns and urge him to take action that will provide reassurance that a reliable supply of PPE will be forthcoming for anyone working in circumstances where there is a need for it.
“We only ask Government to do what they have promised, and to secure the supply of what is needed to protect them as they step up in this national emergency. The people working on the frontline of social care are often the last line of defence before elderly and vulnerable people have to be admitted to hospital, and they need and deserve the confidence that they will receive ongoing adequate protection from Covid-19.”
Portfolio Holder for Adult Health, Cllr Adele Williams, said: “We have had a series of promises around new supply and logistics solutions for PPE that have failed to materialise. The promised e-commerce style solution is two to four weeks away from being ready to supply us with the necessary protective equipment. The City Council, along with the wider care sector, have managed to fulfil our PPE requirements but the Central Government effort in this regard has been haphazard and woefully inadequate. It appears our planning for a pandemic has been more robust than the Government’s.
“It shows how little the Government understands the sector given that both local authority and external providers are making historic and heroic efforts in responding to a national emergency but find that they are still having to be responsible for sourcing their own PPE.
“That care homes and homecare providers are having to divert their precious, skilled staff resource into a procurement task that Government should have had a grip on several weeks ago is a national disgrace. As a local authority, we stand with the wider care sector to ask the Government to do better and give us all the confidence that the equipment needed to protect all frontline care workers is provided regularly and reliably as promised.”
Councillor Williams added a tribute to everyone working on the social care frontline and gave a commitment they would not be left without protective equipment.
She said: “We are grateful to the hundreds of people who are stepping up to social care to look after their fellow citizens and they can be confident that we will maintain the safest possible working conditions and protocols.
“No one should or will be asked to work without the equipment they need to protect themselves and those they care for.”