Home care directors have expressed scepticism over the government’s pledge to provide an “uninterrupted supply” of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to health and social care staff this winter.
The leaders said that while they welcome yesterday’s announcement that four-month stockpiles of PPE will be in place from November, they find it hard to rely on this pledge “with any confidence” given the government’s previous “failures” to deliver on supplies.
Peter Seldon, CEO of Consultus Care and Nursing, who has previously condemned the government over its “scandalous” PPE response, said: “I welcome this news at face value and hope it’s actually delivered. In practice, the government has provided little or no help to the 24/7 live-in care sector to date in terms of either PPE or testing.
“In both cases we have had to use our own initiative and own resources to meet the needs of our clients, carers, nurses and staff – and the government is now following our lead by planning to offer the easier to administer salvia based PCR test rather than the swab test.”
Seldon said in an open letter to the government in April that a lack of PPE supplies meant that care providers were having to rely on private suppliers, many of which were hiking their prices up to “shocking” levels.
Jeffrey Fowler, chairman of Hales Group, said he hopes things are different this time around. “We welcome any initiatives by the government to increase the domestic supply of PPE. The big question is, will it be affordable? Previously most domestic pricing of PPE was far in excess of what care providers could afford,” he said.
Raina Summerson, Group CEO of Agincare, said her company will be putting its own measures in place in case the government fails to deliver on its promises.
She added: “We are reassured by the government intent and commitment to ensuring adequate supplies of free PPE to providers. However, whilst we now have more detail about this commitment, given the failures to date in government pledges on areas such as testing, providers will find it hard to rely on these supplies with any confidence.
“We will therefore be ensuring our own supply chains and stocks are still in place until the portal and government promises have been proven to come through in daily operational delivery.”
David Trowbridge, director of Retain Healthcare, which operates across, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset and Bristol, said: “This is potentially great news for the care sector and we hope that the government has learnt lessons from before and have it right this time.
“We hope that a steady, domestic flow of PPE will mean that there is available stock deep into the pandemic, so that providers don’t all face the same shortages that they did previously, especially with face masks.
“As we all know the costs of PPE have dramatically risen even following the no VAT ruling for healthcare providers – so this will also be welcomed by many in keeping their workforce and clients safe. As a business, we have been spending tens of thousands of pounds on PPE to keep our staff and customers safe and this move could mean that more businesses are able to remain viable and continue providing much-needed care to those in our community.”
The announcement from the government came as it published a new PPE strategy setting out a data-driven approach to building further resilience in the supply chain in response to rising rates of coronavirus infection.
Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “At the start of the pandemic, meeting the huge demands for PPE was a massive challenge.
“That’s why we have worked every day since to ensure we have an uninterrupted supply to meet the challenges in the coming months and protect those who are protecting us.
“We have built robust and resilient supply chains from scratch and thanks to an absolutely phenomenal effort from UK businesses, almost three quarters of demand for PPE will soon be met by UK manufacturers.”
The government said over 32 billion of items of PPE had already been supplied to health and social care workers with 70% of demand expected to be met by UK businesses by December.