All care settings should have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) by the end of the week, the health and social care secretary has told the House of Commons.
On Tuesday afternoon (24 March), Matt Hancock said the military was ‘ramping up’ delivery to get equipment to the frontline.
Shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged the government ‘to move heaven and earth now’ to get the PPE to the frontline.
He said: ‘We need PPE in social care. We are beginning to see outbreaks of Covid-19 in social care homes. What support is in place for residents in care homes and when will we get PPE into the care sector…?’
In response Hancock said: ‘He [Ashworth] asked specifically about social care and I am glad to say the current plan is to have protective equipment in all care settings by the end of the week…
‘We have put in place the hotline so that if you need PPE and you’re not getting it call the hotline so we know where the difficulties are in terms of getting it to the frontline; so we can respond to those calls and so we can get it to you.’
Over the weekend more than 200 NHS organisations received face masks and PPE, NHS England said, with homecare providers, care homes and hospices receiving at least 300 face masks each.
Also on Tuesday afternoon, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, was due to give evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee regarding Covid-19 and the care home sector. He was expected to discuss PPE supplies, the need for testing and the response from NHS England. However, the session was postponed.
Ahead of the evidence session, Prof Green said the sector needed help if it was going to continue to support some of society’s most vulnerable.
In the absence of a quick Covid-19 tests there had been rising staff absences, he said. Combined with the high level of vacancy rates in the sector there was the potential to create a perfect storm if care homes could not cope, leading to further pressure on the NHS.
Prof Green said: ‘There are many jobs and volunteering roles in the adult social care sector and we encourage those who are able, or whose circumstances have changed, to consider working or volunteering in care. Social care needs you.’
Care Minister Helen Whately has written to recruitment agencies in health and care to work in partnership with the NHS ‘in the public interest, to ensure that staff are placed efficiently, are fully compliant, and are proportionately remunerated for the time they are willing to give to the NHS and social care during this period of public need.’
As of Tuesday at 4pm there had been 422 deaths in UK due to Covid-19, with more than 8,000 confirmed cases.