South East care home staff being let down

6 May 2020

Too many staff in care homes in the South East are not adequately protected during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal College Of Nursing said today.

An existing shortage of staff in the sector, combined with poor planning, delays in central distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and lack of focus from the government have led to frustrations for many exhausted nurses.

Members of the Royal College Of Nursing from across the region have rung a helpline with concerns ranging from lack of basic equipment to unfair working practices.

One member described how the home they work in had no proper PPE so they were making do with improvised masks made of cotton and a sanitary towel. Other staff have reported being pressured into returning to work early, even if they were still symptomatic or self-isolating because a family member is ill, due to the lack of staff.

Compounding this is a lack of proper testing with a recent RCN survey showing that those working outside the NHS are more likely to struggle to access COVID-19 testing. There are also nurses who are feeling pressured to return to work as they are only receiving statutory sick pay (despite guidance that says they should not be at detriment if self-isolating) and can’t afford to be off work.

Patricia Marquis, South East Regional Director said: “Members are working above and beyond at the moment facing situations that many have never experienced before. They are scared for their own health whilst desperately trying to ensure dignity and excellent care is given to those they care for. Some care homes seem to be functioning well, but others have been left with no proper PPE or PPE that is having to be re-used so that it no longer offers the protection that it should.

“Staff are working around the clock with some sacrificing time with their own families to live in with residents and ensure continuity of care.

“These are frontline staff too and they deserve to have access to the correct equipment for their safety as well as the safety of others in the home. A homemade mask is woefully inadequate for some of the tasks they are doing. They also need to be able to access testing quickly and efficiently. We will not tolerate COVID-19 being used as a scapegoat for poor management locally or by the government and would urge any member with a concern to contact us without delay.”

 

Page last updated - 17/05/2021