More than 55 people have died from Covid-19 in Southwark care homes – but official figure unknown

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

More than 55 people have died of Covid-19 in care homes in one borough – but town hall leaders have not revealed the actual figure yet.

And staff unions claim the fudged government guidance on safety gear, or PPE, was drawn up to reflect what was available – and not what front line workers needed.

Southwark council gave out 800,000 pieces of PPE to care providers during the pandemic, and the supply chain is now in a stable position after a “vulnerable” start.

Southwark head of commissioning Genette Laws gave the figures at a health and social care scrutiny commission meeting on Monday.

She said more than 55 people – the previous official figure – had died in care homes in Southwark from Covid-19, but did not publicly give the figure.

“We provided in total over 800,000 pieces of PPE across all of our care providers,” she said.

“That was nearly 728,000 pieces of PPE and over 68,000 items of PPE for our care homes.”

Ms Laws said Southwark had now found a “steady supply of PPE to support providers” with emergency supplies should they need it.

“We’re not just going to rely on visits, particularly for home care, to their officers and looking at records,” she said.

“The service users really valued having the call and that was something that the monitoring officers found really rewarding – that’s an important dimension.”

Staff absence during the pandemic was lower for Southwark than other boroughs, which Ms Laws said was partly down to adoption of trade union Unison’s Ethical Care Charter.

Southwark was one of the first councils to adopt the charter, designed to protect employees and clients.

The council now aims to adopt the Residential Care Charter, which focuses on care homes.

April Ashley, from trade union Unison Southwark, told the commission there had been big issues with PPE guidance, which was “constantly changing”.

“A lot of the guidance about PPE was about what the Government could obtain rather than the health and safety of our members,” she said.

Ms Ashley said a lot of carers did not get the required PPE in the beginning and said some providers failed to tell carers about the frequent changes to guidance.

She said the union would now focus on “full pay for carers”, including statutory sick pay.


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