I am having regular discussions with Derbyshire County Council, together with other local MPs, to discuss the various issues affecting care homes, social services, community carers and many other issues during this coronavirus crisis.
The County Council inform me that all local authority homes, including The Spinney in Brimington, have the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) their staff need to provide care to residents in as safe a manner as possible. I am also told that the current stocks and supply chain are thought to be adequate despite being stretched going forward. For context, the Council have already spent five times more on PPE in the last three months than they spent in all of 2019.
However, I remain highly conscious of the national news regarding lack of PPE in UK care homes and hospitals. I would be keen to hear from care staff at The Spinney, or any privately run care homes in Chesterfield, to hear their views on how things are going and whether they are satisfied that they have the appropriate PPE to safely complete their caring duties. Both local and national government needs to listen to the concerns of care home staff as they are the people who really know what is happening on the frontline.
Private care homes are being advised that whilst they still need to use their usual suppliers for procuring PPE where possible, the Local resilience forum will work with them to try and cover any shortages that may arise due to delays from suppliers. Any care homes that are experiencing difficulties should contact the Local Resilience Forum on 01629 538 364 as there are small quantities of PPE available for carers in case of emergency. Any care home managers that are still experiencing difficulties getting supplies, please call me on 01246 386 286.
I have again urged the Conservative leadership at the County Council to postpone their consultation into proposed closure of seven local authority care homes, including The Spinney, and I am very disappointed and angry that they have refused. They are ploughing on with the consultation and avoiding proper scrutiny. I also think it is highly distasteful and inappropriate to be consulting on the closures and potential job losses to the staff at these homes, at a time when the staff are putting their own health at risk by caring for residents, and when these homes have taken elderly patients from hospitals to reduce pressures on the NHS.
I appreciate how worrying this time must be for the residents and staff in care homes, and for family members who can no longer visit their loved ones. I will continue to liaise with the County Council to monitor any concerns that may arise but I am hopeful that the staff there will continue to have the PPE and support they need. I would be happy to hear from the owners or staff from privately-run facilities if they have concerns that I should be aware of and would encourage them to call my office on 01246 386 286.
I think the Government have been too slow to recognise the pressures on care homes and it seems clear to me that they were not focussing on ensuring PPE was available to all care homes, with a feeling amongst care workers that they were not seen as important as NHS workers. The testing of staff and residents should have been completed much sooner, and that no one should have been allowed to leave hospital and go back to a care home without being tested first. The Government have committed to the routine testing of care home staff and I will be pressing the to ensure they stick to this. Mistakes have been made and it is crucial that we learn from them in the public inquiry that will follow this, but right now the most important thing is to work collaboratively to address this crisis, whilst providing constructive criticisms and pushing for improvements and additional measures.