The council will hold a ‘bank of last resort’ supply of PPE for carers even as lockdown is eased, over fears there may be a second wave of Covid before a vaccine.
During the pandemic, town hall officials had been forced to step in to buy gloves and masks for care organisation in Southwark when suppliers failed to deliver.
A meeting on Monday evening into the impact of coronavirus on the care sector heard that 800,000 items of PPE were delivered to Southwark care organisations by council staff.
“We’re not going to do away with the ‘bank of last resort’ until there is a vaccine,” said Genette Laws, Southwark’s director of commissioning.
“We’re continuing with the bank of last resort in case there is a second wave.”
The meeting also heard from trade union officials, who spoke of frontline carers’ concerns that the government’s track-and-trace programme was not effective enough to track outbreaks among staff.
And it was revealed that five of Southwark’s seventeen care homes have not been tested for coronavirus – but this was explained as being because those homes weren’t for elderly residents, and testing had only recently become available for them.
“Our concerns are mainly about track and tracing,” said April Ashley, of the UNISON union, which represents care staff. “I know it’s early days, but we’re still concerned about that.
“Staff are able to get adequate PPE now. But one of the many issues at the beginning was that there was no information about what sort of PPE was required.
“Clap For Carers, that was really appreciated – but what staff really wanted was proper PPE.”
A “lack of understanding” about how social care works on the ground also became apparent during the crisis, according to Ms Laws.
“One of the lessons I’ve learned was the lack of understanding in the Health and Social Care department,” she said.
“Sometimes you would find people talking about care homes as the same as assisted living. There was a lack of understanding about what care homes are for.
“It’s not just about getting people out of hospital, it’s [their] home, not just about care.”
Councillors were also told how healthcare appointments, including for serious conditions, had still not reached pre-Covid levels, with concerns that the public is still putting off attending GPs and hospitals because of the pandemic.
“The activity has not yet gone back to pre-Covid [levels],” said Sam Hepplewhite, of Southwark’s Clinical Commissioning Group.
“In urgent care and A&E there’s a campaign to get people to come back.”