Care home charity having to source face masks privately at five times usual cost

A care home provider said it is paying five times the usual amount for face masks, while local authorities continue to struggle to get enough protective equipment.

Methodist Homes (MHA) said it was forced to spend £200,000 on face masks from a trusted private supplier because it cannot depend on the Government’s allocation processes.

This works out at roughly 97 pence per mask, when usually they would spend 17 pence when sourcing through the Government.

The supply, due to arrive in the next few days, will last around a month.

MHA chief executive Sam Monaghan said the charitable operator cannot remain in a position “where we are having to procure kit from the private market at heavily inflated prices because the Government supply is insufficient”.

He told the PA news agency: “We are almost four weeks in now, and MHA area managers are still driving every night picking up stock from one home, taking it to another, reallocating based on confirmed and suspected cases, but of course that’s neither the best nor the most sustainable approach.

“We just need adequate and consistent supplies.

“If you are a single provider, with two or three or five care homes, I think it must be really difficult for them.”

MHA has had 210 Covid-19-related deaths across 131 homes, while two staff members have also died.

The charity is launching an emergency appeal asking people to donate so it can continue to secure the personal protective equipment (PPE) it needs.

In a PPE plan last week, the Government said a 24/7 military operation was under way to manage supply and demand, with more than 761 million items already delivered.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there is enough PPE to go around if it is used in line with official guidance, and his goal is that “everyone” working in a critical role gets what they need.

A domestic manufacturing effort with companies such as Rolls Royce was also announced, but Mr Monaghan said he had not yet seen the impact of this.

He continued: “We are not seeing any of that filter through to our providers yet.

“At a very local level, we are chasing PPE at every single site we are working in, and of course you can’t spend £200,000 each month just on face masks, it’s just not a sustainable situation.”

It comes as the Local Government Association said some councils are still experiencing shortages, sourcing gowns from vets and dentists, and coveralls from the police, fire and rescue services, utility companies and local businesses.

Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said the lack of PPE was a “national scandal”.

He tweeted on Tuesday: “I’m told we are getting a PPE delivery tomorrow for the city which is only half of what we got last week.

“Last week we got 40% of what we needed. We are having to ration provisions to care providers. This is a national scandal.”

Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said: “The coronavirus pandemic has shone a bright light on the incredible work that social care workers and organisations carry out every day.

“It is therefore scandalous that social care has consistently been at the end of the queue when it comes to accessing personal protective equipment vital to protect people who use services and the workforce.”

Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives and Residents Association, said: “Care services should be recognised as equal partners with the NHS, on the front line of managing this pandemic, and receive the same levels of support.

“PPE should also be made available to allow relatives to visit those in care at the end of their lives or in distress due to conditions like dementia.”