UNISON’s Dominic MacAskill and secretary for the joint trades unions. Photo credit: Tracey Paddison
Local authority employers and trade union representatives are so concerned about the severe pressures facing social and home care providers and care workers, they have today (Friday) written to Health Minister Vaughan Gething requesting his urgent intervention.
The trade unions and local authority employers together form the Joint Council for Wales and their letter says there is a “desperate need to ensure that key issues such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing are urgently prioritised”.
They warn the Minister elements of the PPE guidance are not clear and this puts care workers and their clients at risk.
Specifically, they say a lack of clarity in the official advice has led to some care workers being told they only need wear one set of PPE for multiple home visits, increasing the opportunity for cross contamination.
The Joint Council for Wales has requested the Minister writes to all social and home care providers in Wales to state this should not happen and the Joint Council also calls upon Welsh Government to ensure appropriate supplies of all necessary PPE are made available at all times to the social and home care workforce, and replenished in good time, so that everyone within the workforce is properly protected at work.
UNISON’s Dominic MacAskill and secretary for the joint trade unions said,
“It is absolutely vital that all social care workers are properly protected as they go about their essential work during the pandemic.
“There is a duty on Welsh Government to urgently ensure staff have all the protective equipment they need and for the guidance on the use of that equipment to be clear and indisputable.”
Councillor Philippa Marsden, chair of the Joint Council for Wales said,
“Social care workers have always been key workers, but they are now more important than ever. They are a lifeline to so many families right across Wales, and are putting other people first every day despite their own anxieties about the risk involved.
“Councils have welcomed the guidance received by Welsh Government, but there is a real need for more clarity. Our care workers need to be properly protected so that they are safe and well enough to work, and to ensure that vulnerable residents and clients are shielded from the virus.”
In the letter, the Joint Council for Wales conveyed its utmost thanks and support to all social and home care staff for the essential work that they are carrying out during this pandemic emergency.
Notes to editors
The Joint Council for Wales trades unions are GMB, Unite and UNISON
Text of letter to Health Minister Vaughan Gething, sent today (17 April)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Social and Home Care Workers
The Joint Council for Wales, comprising local authority employer and trade union representatives, has noted the revised guidance jointly published by the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health Wales, Public Health Agency Northern Ireland, Health Protection Scotland, Public Health England and NHS England (last updated on 12th April 2020), this guidance having been informed by input from Royal Colleges and expert scientific groups.
It is also noted that Public Health Wales has published “Advice – COVID-19: infection prevention and control (IPC)” on 8th April 2020 and a “Supplementary Advice Note:
Social Care settings: Examples to inform implementation of the updated Infection Prevention and Control guidance – COVID-19” on 9th April 2020.
The latest ONS figures on deaths from COVID-19 in the community show that a significant number of coronavirus deaths have occurred outside hospitals, including in care homes.
These figures are another stark reminder of the severe pressures facing social and home care providers and the desperate need to ensure that key issues such as personal protective equipment and testing are urgently prioritised.
Social and home care staff are at the forefront of responding to the coronavirus. They are doing an incredible and dangerous job in extremely challenging circumstances.
We are pleased to see that the recently revised PPE guidance now makes it clear that social and home care workers can – where there is an anticipated/likely risk of contamination with splashes, droplets of blood or body fluids – protect themselves, or the individuals they are caring for, by wearing a fluid repellent surgical mask, with or without eye protection, as determined by the individual care worker. This is a significant and welcome development.
However, there are still some elements of the PPE guidance affecting the social care workforce which are not sufficiently clear; we call upon the Welsh Government to clarify the guidance, in particular around the revision to trust a social care worker’s judgement on the use of PPE and to better define the terms “single” and “sessional” use.
For example, some home care workers have been told that their programme of multiple home visits in a day is one “session”, which would mean that one set of PPE is used multiple times, increasing the potential for cross contamination. The trade unions would welcome the opportunity to share their experiences with Welsh Government in this respect.
We therefore call on the Welsh Government to write to all social and home care providers in Wales to clarify and highlight this important issue.
We also call upon Welsh Government to ensure that appropriate supplies of all necessary PPE are made available at all times to the social and home care workforce, and replenished in good time, so that everyone within the workforce is properly protected at work.
We believe that such action on the part of the Welsh Government will reassure those who are providing and receiving vital services, and also those who are already shielding.
The Joint Council for Wales wishes to convey its utmost thanks and support to all social and home care staff for the essential work that they are carrying out during this pandemic emergency.
Councillor Philippa Marsden
Chair – Joint Council for Wales
Trade Union Side Secretary – Joint Council for Wales
Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer on 07816 53 83 97