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CARE workers and community nurses are using the kind of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus outbreak that they would usually wear for making a sandwich, GMB said yesterday.
Many workers are only provided with a simple plastic apron and gloves and are left without masks and hand sanitiser, the union’s care lead Kelly Andrews warned.
GMB said that it is receiving hundreds of calls a day from care workers concerned about a lack of PPE, while staff say that they are sometimes expected to turn up even if they have Covid-19 symptoms.
A care-home worker with a toddler was told that he and his colleagues would have to nurse sick residents despite not having proper PPE, health union Unison said.
A worker in a children’s home said that she is down to her last bottle of hand sanitiser, which she estimated will only last one more shift.
She said: “I worry I may take the virus home and give it to my elderly mother.”
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Care workers are being treated as though their safety and that of their loved ones doesn’t matter.
“They feel they’ve been forgotten about and are at the bottom of the pile despite doing a vital job.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made six demands in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday, with the first being the immediate provision of full PPE for all health and social-care workers.
He pointed out that at least three NHS medics have died from Covid-19.
“These dedicated public servants are risking their lives to save lives. They deserve the best protection possible,” he said.
“Neither can we tolerate a situation where social-care workers — in both residential and domiciliary settings — do not have PPE.
“Care workers are scandalously poorly paid. Now is the moment to recognise their true value to our society and provide them with the protection they need.”
Mr Corbyn also wants all health and social-care workers tested for the virus, an expansion of social care, enforcement of social distancing and protection, bolstered support for workers and for Britain to lead a global response to the crisis.
The letter concludes: “We can emerge from this crisis with that fabric strengthened — but it requires a recognition that we can no longer tolerate the inequality and insecurity that has left all of us weaker than we should have been in the face of this pandemic.”
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