North East care homes 'need more help' to cope with coronavirus outbreak and protect staff

A body representing North East care homes says staff are frightened as they face the growing threat from coronavirus. Care North East, which represents around eighty care providers, says its members need more help in coping with the outbreak in order to safeguard staff and residents.

The association says it has several key concerns:

- a shortage of personal protective equipment and basic supplies.

- shortages of staff because some are self isolating.

- It's demanding more coronavirus testing for residents and workers.

Care North East says its members are being required to place patients, as they are discharged from hospital, not knowing whether they have coronavirus. It fears this is putting both current residents and staff at risk.

It also believes there is too little guidance on dealing with issues such as self isolation within a care home setting, particularly if a resident lives with dementia.

Keith Gray, who heads the association told ITV News Tyne Tees:

Members are extremely frightened at the moment, I believe and that's down to maybe not having enough staff on duty due to self isolation. They're frightened that there may be new placements coming into the home that are not being tested and they may be COVID-19 positive which obviously puts a risk to existing residents in the home."

Keith Gray, Care North East
Care homes say they are struggling to obtain everyday essentials. Credit: PA

Michael Forster, who manages a care home in Stockton, told us that aside from PPE and hand sanitiser, his home has struggled to obtain everyday essentials.

It's basic things such as milk, bread; we were struggling with toilet roll ... because obviously there's eighteen people who live here, plus staff, and we go through quite a bit of this stuff on a daily basis. "

Michael Forster, Park House Rest Home

ITV Tyne Tees has spoken to one care home worker who told us she was making her own face masks from plastic bottles, in case she needs to protect herself. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told us:

We've got gloves and plastic pinnies but masks are few and far between. Not the home's fault because they do try but we're just not getting them delivered. You have to put a mask on each time you go into a resident's room and you have to strip everything off before you come out and throw it away. You can only wear them for twenty minutes. We've got a lot of residents so you could use hundreds in a day."

Anonymous Care Worker

The Government told ITV News this week that it is working round the clock to give social carers the equipment and support they need.

Yesterday, the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock is aiming to increase the number of people being tested for coronavirus to100,000 every day by the end of the month.

Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary Credit: PA

Meanwhile, the Local Government Association, which brings together councils around the country said:

Social care is at the forefront of responding to the unique challenges posed by coronavirus and the workforce is doing an incredible and dangerous job in extremely challenging circumstances.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board

So far, Care North East says there have been a small number of cases of coronavirus in the region's care homes. With the number of cases - more generally - expected to rise - its members say they must be prepared.