UNISON has declared that some care companies are still failing to give care home staff accurate guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), putting workers and vulnerable residents at risk.
The union has revealed reports from care staff that they are being denied access to PPE, and that some have been told by employers that they do not need equipment because there are no confirmed case of Covid-19 in the home.
The trade union has also said that the guidance issued by Public Health England is “not sufficiently clear or comprehensive” and that workers are consequently being told that they don’t need equipment by “unscrupulous employers.”
Commenting on the situation, general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Care workers simply don’t feel safe, either for themselves, their families or the vulnerable people relying on them every day.
“Covid-19 is rife in care homes across the UK with thousands dying before their time when we’ve known of the risks for weeks. But staff are still not being given the PPE they need to cut the risks.
“Some tell us their employers are doing the right thing, but many care workers are being put in danger because what they’re being told is plain wrong. They feel helpless because they’re often on low pay and are left to choose between risking their health or paying their bills.”
UNISON claims that it has received many accounts from many workers detailing how their employer has not issued them with the correct equipment, such as a mask, apron, gloves or a gown.
McAnea added: “We need clear, simple and easily accessible guidance so staff know exactly what kit they’re entitled to and feel more confident to challenge employers refusing to provide it.”
The guidance on masks from Public Health England currently states that they should be worn when providing personal care “which requires them to be in direct contact with the residents or within two metres of a resident who is coughing”.
The union has written to the organisation requesting that detailed advice on PPE, such as whether a new mask should be used each time personal care is provided, be issued to help care sector workers.
UNISON has also launched a petition demanding that the government deliver on its promises on protective equipment and do more to protect care staff and elderly people during the coronavirus crisis.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK stands at 186,599, but with low levels of testing the true figure is thought to be much higher. There have been 28,446 recorded deaths related to the virus.