Paulette Hamilton, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, writes:
Last night I went outside my front door along with millions across the UK to applaud the key workers keeping our city and country going. As I did so, I thought about the thousands of social care workers in Birmingham who are doing such an amazing job looking after the most vulnerable people in our city.
At Birmingham Labour Council, we know that our carers need more than just claps. That’s why we have put together an extra £5million to support Birmingham care providers. It will help care homes pay for the extra costs that they face as a result of COVID-19, including buying personal protective equipment (PPE), extra staffing costs and discharging patients from hospital.
However, the government needs to do so much more to support social care providers on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. We ordered thousands of sets of PPE so that all our care workers can be given protection in line with World Health Organisation guidelines. When the order arrived from the government on April 6, less than half of what we had ordered actually turned up.
The situation regarding PPE in Birmingham is therefore desperate. We are far short of the amount we need, and trying to allocate resources as carefully as we can. This is being made even more difficult by the government, who are asking us to supply PPE to Primary care as well. Putting it kindly, this is ridiculous and unacceptable. Birmingham Council are struggling to supply the social care sector with the protective equipment that it needs. We are therefore desperately short of PPE in Birmingham. We cannot possibly provide GP surgeries, prisons, funeral staff, pharmacist, emergency dentists and our care staff, Social Workers and all our front line workers with enough equipment to keep them safe. Stock levels are running dangerously low, and we are not even at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis. We need to protect the health and safety of the our frontline workers who are protecting and supporting our most vulnerable and keeping the City going during this crisis.
As a result, we have had to ask local businesses in Birmingham to help us provide PPE for our social care staff. So many have responded with generous offers, but this can only be a sticking plaster until Birmingham receives the help from the government that it needs.
Social care workers also need to be prioritised for testing. Absence rates in most Birmingham care homes are already between 10 and 25 per cent. The government has announced plans for a testing centre in Birmingham, but it is only expected to test 150 people every day. That is nowhere near enough – it means it would take over 20 years to test everyone in our city. If social care workers do not get the support they need, including PPE and to be prioritised for testing, our care system will fall apart.
As our new leader Keir Starmer has said, we will work constructively with all parties and the government during this unprecedented national crisis. However, the government promised to do “Whatever it takes”, and at the moment for social care that means doing a lot more than they are doing at the moment. Social care workers need PPE and to be prioritised for testing. Birmingham Labour Council will work with all parties and the government to ensure social care workers get what they need to stay safe.
Stay home and save lives.
If you have any spare PPE which you can donate to Birmingham City Council please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your company details.
Items needed include: Type IIR/FFP2/FFP3 Facemasks, disposable sleeveless aprons, disposable aprons with sleeves, disposable Nitrile gloves, goggles and hand sanitiser.