PPE concerns for care home workers as high COVID-19 deaths revealed

18 May 2020

A trade union has said the high rates of COVID-19 deaths among care staff are “shocking,” claiming that many staff still going into workplaces where protective kit is unavailable.

Christina McAnea, Assistant General Secretary of the union Unison, was responding to figures released recently by the Office for National Statistics which show that death rates involving COVID-19 are significantly raised among care workers and home care staff, compared with doctors and nurses.

Christina McAnea said, “These shocking figures reveal how care staff are literally putting their lives on the line by going to work.

“Their jobs can’t be done without getting up close to the vulnerable and elderly individuals they care for in residential homes and in the community.

“Having access to personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential for employees and residents. It’s a scandal many care staff are going into workplaces where safety kit is still unavailable or locked away.”

Analysing the figures for doctors and nurses compared with social care workers, Ben Humberston, Deputy Director for Health Analysis and Life Events at the ONS said, “Despite being exposed to disease on a daily basis, and requiring close contact with others, healthcare workers, such as doctors and nurses, did not have higher rates of COVID-19 deaths compared with the rate among those of the same age and sex in the population as a whole.

“This could be because during the pandemic they are more likely to be using PPE, or have a greater knowledge of how diseases spread and are thus more likely to follow hygiene measures such as handwashing. Also, there may be deaths in some occupations which have not been registered yet because a coroner’s inquest is required.

“Even though our analysis suggests that social care occupations have a lower exposure to disease than healthcare workers, both men and women working in social care had significantly raised rates of COVID-19 deaths. There are many different reasons why this could be the case and further work will be needed to look at this.”