Care homes will be given free PPE until March under new coronavirus plans

Care homes will be prioritised for testing. (Photo: Shutterstock)Care homes will be prioritised for testing. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Care homes will be prioritised for testing. (Photo: Shutterstock)

New government plans for winter will see care homes given personal protective equipment (PPE) for free until March 2021.

The plans, to be published by the Department of Health, put forward free PPE as means to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 over winter, when the NHS will be tackling normal seasonal pressures on top of coronavirus cases.

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In addition to this, a chief nurse will be appointed to provide extra guidance to nurses currently working in the care sector.

The government has already announced that £546 million will be awarded to care homes to help reduce coronavirus transmission.

This money will ensure carers only have to work in one care home (to reduce viral spread) and will pay workers full wages if they're forced to isolate due to the virus.

The reaction from the care sector

While council care directors have welcomed the new plans, they say there are significant gaps in what it offers to the sector.

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They told the BBC that it does not offer the funding required to meet the expected rise in demand for care - especially in the home - over winter.

They added that the plans also fail to address the need to pay care home workers more.

The head of charity Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, told the BBC what she had seen of the plans was "promising" but that she wanted to see what they said about visits at care homes.

"Although the devil will be in the detail, which we have not yet seen, on the face of it this plan seems to get some important things right," she said.

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"The extra funding is welcome, though a little more would give us, and no doubt providers, more confidence that they will get through the next few months without a financial crisis."

Though many care homes reopened over the summer, some chose to remain shut to visitors, while rising cases have led many to renew restrictions on face-to-face visits.

"Any sense of a 'blanket ban' would be highly inappropriate, however anxious we may all feel," Ms Abrahams told the BBC.

"Risks, capabilities and opportunities of all kinds differ hugely across care homes and for the sake of older people this enormous variation must be taken fully into account."

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that he would do "whatever is humanly possible" to protect care homes "so they are a place of sanctuary this winter" in the House of Commons.

With the UK's testing system overloaded by demand, ministers have also promised to prioritise care homes for testing.