Labour calls for urgent action for Govt to protect care staff and social care system

Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care and Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary have today set out four key areas of action from the Government to address the growing Covid-19 crisis faced by social care.

Labour is calling for urgent action from the Government to protect care staff and those who receive care and to provide financial support to a social care system which was already struggling before the pandemic.

Labour’s four areas of action are:

1.  Increase delivery of PPE for care staff

Care homes, hospices, home care services and other non-NHS providers of care are in some cases struggling to access adequate PPE from their existing suppliers. Government-coordinated PPE deliveries over the past weeks should have provided care homes with 300 surgical masks but some care homes have not even received this. Care staff caring for residents with suspected Covid-19 need full PPE including aprons, gloves, fluid-repellent masks and may need eye or face protection but many are struggling to access this PPE.

Care providers have reported their normal suppliers of PPE increasing prices or running out of stock. As a result, care providers are delivering care without the recommended level of PPE, rationing their PPE or approaching their local communities for help. Where providers are struggling to access PPE or running out, the Government must step in to provide a coordinated approach to procuring PPE.

2.  Provide the social care sector with immediate additional funding

Although the additional funding announced by the Government is welcome, care providers and local authorities have told us this is not enough to deal with the increased costs of delivering care. Social care providers have told us they are facing additional pressures with increased staffing costs as care staff self-isolate, or with increased costs of purchasing significant volumes of PPE.

These cost pressures are in addition to the existing pressures faced by the social care system, which has seen £7.7 billion cut from local authority social care budgets since 2010.

3.  Test, test, test in social care

Testing levels should be urgently increased for both NHS staff and care home residents. The Government must roll out testing to social care staff, allowing them to access community testing facilities outside of hospitals alongside NHS staff. Some care homes and hospices have reported up to 30 per cent of their staff away from work self-isolating.

Testing must be extended to all care homes residents with suspected Covid-19 in order to keep care home residents safe. Over the past two weeks there have been reports of care homes unable to access testing for their residents. In other cases, care homes have been concerned about receiving new care home residents from hospital without a negative covid-19 test result. Testing patients before discharging them to a care home must be a priority to prevent outbreaks of the virus in care homes.

4.  Provide continuous monitoring of the pressures faced by the social care system and leadership from the department of Health and Social Care

It should be made clear that social care staff are vital key workers that should benefit from the same recognition as NHS staff.

Social care should not be seen as an afterthought. These pressures will not go away as the outbreak progresses and it is vital that the Department of Health and Social Care continues to monitor the availability of PPE and testing across the social care sector and allocate additional funding for care provision when needed.

The social care sector is vital in keeping vulnerable people safe in the Covid-19 pandemic and the Department of Health and Social Care must show leadership to our fragmented social care sector.

Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s Shadow Mental Health and Social Care Minister, said:

“Social care should not be an afterthought in this crisis, but once again it appears to be.

“Our care staff provide vital support to vulnerable people day after day. We cannot leave them without the protective equipment and access to testing needed to keep them safe.

“We need to see a coordinated social care plan from the Government that will protect both our vital care staff, and those they are working hard to keep safe every day.”

 Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said:

“This joint call exposes the huge level of concern from social care workers about the adequacy and supply of PPE.

“Our care staff are working flat out to protect our most vulnerable people during this pandemic and they deserve effective protective clothing and equipment, and continued access to it.

“Ministers need to work with trade unions urgently to ensure that staff get the PPE which is so crucial to keeping them and residents safe.”

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