'It's heartbreaking': More than 70% of carers think colleagues will die if they catch coronavirus

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

More than 70% of carers believe colleagues will die if they become infected with coronavirus and 44% still don't have adequate PPE, an exclusive survey has revealed.

The figures come just one day the health secretary confirmed 15 carers had already died since the outbreak - six weeks after ITV News highlighted just how worried carers were about the need for protective equipment.

The stats obtained by ITV News from the GMB union showed that of carers without PPE, some 85% feel their health is being put at risk at work.

And 86% of those surveyed are scared they're going to give the virus to their family, while 99% have not been tested and so have no idea whether they have the virus to pass on or not.

The survey of 2,249 care workers shows the pressure and stress many have been forcing themselves through for weeks, in order to help the vulnerable.

On March 12 ITV News spoke to care provider staff who were being forced to procure their own PPE from sources such as Ebay, after being left short by the government.

The manager at one care provider ITV News spoke to warned a crisis was on its way in the sector if adequate PPE was not provided.

Watch the full report from March 12:

Since then, figures have revealed thousands of care workers have been forced to take leave from work to self-isolate after experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, or coming into contact with someone suspected of having it.

And the sector could be in for further staff shortages, with four out of five (79%) care workers telling the survey they expect colleagues to quit over low pay amid the coronavirus danger.

The risk being taken on by carers going to work through this crisis cannot be laid more bare than with the death of a colleague.

David Perrin, director at Totally Care Ltd in Wolverhampton, spoke to ITV News after the funeral of a 44-year-old colleague who died with coronavirus.

Elsie Sazuze died on April 7 at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield.

Mr Perrin said: "We believe firmly like the care sector's being treated like second, third class citizens.

His wife Patricia Perrin, another colleague of Elsie's, added: "We're being left out, we're doing similar kinds of jobs and they're not recognising us.

"I just pray we're not going to lose more people in this way."

Carer Elsie Sazuze died after catching coronavirus.

While staff at Barton House Nursing Home, where Elsie worked, mourn the death of a colleague, carers at another facility in Newcastle are hoping one of their co-worker will survive the virus.

Christine Barbrook, a carer of 17 years at Craghall Care Home - whose two daughters also work there - is in intensive care with Covid-19.

She has been in intensive care for two and a half weeks and breathing through a ventilator.

Connie Ross, deputy manager at Craghall Care Home, speaking through tears, said the situation is "heartbreaking".

"We just want her to pull through, no one deserves any of this, it's just horrible."

She said Ms Barbrook is "amazing, she's always put everyone and all the residents before herself, she does anything for the home".

Christine Barbrook (L) and her two daughters work at the Craghall Care Home.

Ms Barbrook was taken ill with Covid-19 just two days after an outbreak among residents at the home, which saw three infections and resulted in every resident being isolated for 14 days to protect them.

Ms Ross told of the "nightmare" of isolating residents at the facility.

"When 95% have dementia, they don't understand what's going on, they want to come out their rooms, they're lonely, they don't know what's happening.

"It's been awful."

Rachel Beckett, managing director at Wellburn Care Homes - the provider running Craghall Care Home - told ITV News she believes the main problems for businesses like hers are PPE and lack of testing.

She said trying to procure PPE is a "painstaking task" but she has "exhaustively" got enough to last for the time being.

But, she said, "it depends how long this goes on for, if it goes on for another three month - every order we're making is a back order and we don't know when that order is going to come in".

"The other issue is the cost of it all - a face mask would normally cost 22 pence, it's now £1.20."

This report follows news from the World Health Organisation that residents in long-term care facilities account for up to half of coronavirus-related deaths in Europe.Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “According to estimates from countries in the European region, up to half of those who have died from Covid-19 were resident in long-term care facilities.

“This is an unimaginable human tragedy.”

The Department of Health and Social Care says it has given an extra £1.6bn to local authorities to address additional pressures they face in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson told ITV News: “Social care is on the frontline of our fight against coronavirus – we are ensuring the social care system, and other public services, have all the resources they need during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our adult social care action plan sets out how we are ensuring this additional funding is making a difference.

We have asked local authorities to provide information about its distribution to providers and the Secretary of State has written to local authorities outlining how it could be distributed and that we expect it to reach the frontline quickly.”