Care homes in the UK are still struggling to source sufficient levels of personal protective equipment (PPE), causing “really high” levels of stress for workers.
Bosses say the requirement to wear PPE at all times while working in care homes, coupled with increased costs, mean that supplies often run out extremely quickly.
Colin Angel, policy director for the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA), said sourcing equipment for workers is a main concern for care providers.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think every homecare provider in the country is really struggling to get a sure supply of PPE, and having enough to be confident that they can continue providing care services across, sometimes even days, if not just a few weeks.
“And it’s a real stress. I have a provider who was telling me he was spending 90% of his time trying to phone round and get PPE delivered.
“That means he’s looking for PPE rather than being able to run the rest of his service.
“That’s a huge problem, and the levels of stress it’s creating both for providers delivering care and their frontline care workers is really high.”
There were 5,890 coronavirus-related care home deaths registered up to April 24 in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics said.
Mr Angel said the response from Government has been slow, and that more support is needed as additional cost pressures mount.
“We’re seeing homecare providers having to use personal protective equipment that they’ve never needed before, and face masks and visors aren’t usually necessary in home care,” he said.
“And now we’re using them for virtually every contact that we have with somebody.
“The prices are increasing, the amount of PPE needed to deliver care services safely has shot up in a month or so.
“So, all of these additional cost pressures need to be funded, and that’s either funded by the local authorities in the NHS who are buying care, or potentially by private individuals who are buying their own care.
“We don’t think that’s a cost which should be borne by private individuals.
“We think we need some real support from Government which has been very slow in appearing.”
It comes as more than 130 frontline NHS and care workers have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged that there would be further competition for PPE from businesses seeking to reopen as the lockdown eases, but said that the NHS and care homes must remain a priority.
“The first call on PPE must go to the NHS and social care and those other essential services who need it to keep the people delivering those services safe,” he said on Monday.
Care home resident Pat, who appeared on the BBC with Mr Angel and her carer, Emily, said she is worried about the safety of her carers, without whom she would be “totally lost”, and echoed calls for more PPE.
“It’s very important because I had a stroke so I can do very little for myself – so I totally depend on them … I would be totally lost, I don’t know what I would do without them,” she said.
“It can be very depressing sitting here on your own all the time and I look forward to them coming in for the company as well.”
Mr Angel continued: “We need to get money coming to the frontline care providers, we need to recognise the huge increase in costs, and sort out the supply of PPE so that Pat and Emily can carry on working together and receiving support.”