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Coronavirus – key questions

Clarity needed for city on personal protective equipment, support for care homes, ventilators and testing, say Greens

Detail on personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, testing and care for our most vulnerable will be critical to the city’s response to coronavirus (Covid-19), Greens have said today, sharing a list of questions raised with the Director of Public Health.

The questions follow news reports that show care homes in the city are struggling to obtain PPE equipment, despite working with people in ‘at risk’ or vulnerable groups.

Local hospice Martlets recently made a public appeal for more surgical masks, gloves, aprons and gowns, reporting that supplies are “urgently low.” News coverage detailing the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases at Lindridge care home in Hove also stated that providers are “struggling to find proper protective equipment.”

Highlighting concerns raised by residents, Greens have also asked for confirmation that patients being discharged from hospital are receiving appropriate care, as hospitals work to free up more bed spaces.

With demands for PPE, increased testing and more ventilators rising nationwide, pressure is mounting on the Government to provide more support to local councils, care home staff and health providers tackling the coronavirus outbreak. Greens say access to PPE for all those who need it – from care home staff, to porters and pharmacists – and better assistance for care homes will be vital to support the council’s dedicated effort to contain Covid-19.

Green Councillors: Questions submitted to the Director of Adult Social Care:

  • Given national horror stories about shortages of PPE, including reports of PPE arriving that is out of date, dirty or damaged, and reports that PPE is not reaching all staff who need it (including those not classed as frontline clinicians but who work in hospital or care home settings) what has the experience of this been in Brighton and Hove?
  • What support around PPE is our city receiving from Government?
  • What reports are we getting about the availability of PPE in care homes?
  • We know our local NHS has been working hard to free up capacity by discharging patients from hospital into care homes – how effective has this been in practice? How many intensive care unit beds do we have? How much have we managed to increase capacity already?
  • How many ventilators do we have?
  • Are staffing levels adequate? And based on this, what number of cases requiring hospital admission would represent a)a problem and b) a crisis?
  • In terms of the ‘clearing’ of beds, local health providers have been hoping to free a massive 30% of beds- how is this being done ethically to ensure people are not being ‘dumped’? How is this being done to ensure that elderly people with degenerative conditions such as dementia are afforded the dignity they need now?
  • We’re reading nationally about care homes refusing to take patients who hospitals wish to discharge, out of fear they will bring the virus with them and infect vulnerable residents. Is this our experience in B&H also?
  • National statistics show that positive results for Covid-19 are higher within care homes across the south east. Following news of cases at Oakland and Lindridge care home in the city, how can we ensure discharge to care homes is appropriate, and that we are not designating older people to places with increased risk?
  • The modelling that has been done locally so far suggests that the city may hit ‘peak period’ within the next few weeks, how are we ensuring that there is as much preparation on all of this in good time?

Green Councillor Sarah Nield, member of the city’s Health and Wellbeing Board said:

“We are all hearing horror stories about the Covid-19 crisis on the national news every day. Residents need to know which of these issues apply to us here in Brighton and Hove. We are asking questions and seeking reassurance about our local response to the crisis: do we have enough urgent care beds, ventilators, staff and personal protective equipment to cope?

“So many of our residents have come forward to help one another: the community response so far has been incredible. People need to know whether the city’s, and the Government’s responses will be good enough, and will be there on time.”

Green Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, convenor of the Green Group, added:

“The dedication and commitment of our council staff and health workers facing this crisis is incredible – so it’s vital they have the support they need. We are told in the next number of weeks we will reach the point when the virus will affect most in the city. The health journal the Lancet warns that the NHS has been “wholly unprepared for this pandemic.”. As such, it is no wonder that residents have serious concerns about local NHS capacity, and this is why we are raising this with council and NHS officials.

“Although there are some good stories locally of protective equipment getting to some frontline NHS workers, it needs to be with all affected workers, from health care assistants to porters, to social workers in adult social care and care home workers, as trade union Unison has insisted today. Frontline workers shouldn’t be having to rely on deliveries from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School – as reported in the news this week  – or crowdfunder campaigns.

“Despite assurances from Government ministers to the contrary, evidence is mounting that a lack of protective equipment and testing is now endangering people and staff in our city’s care homes. Government promised 25,000 tests a day- the greatest amount of tests achieved per day has been nearer 9,000. We also know that too little has been done by government, despite serious, repeated warnings, to provide enough ventilators nationwide.

“We all need to understand how tests, ventilators, care of our most vulnerable and protective equipment will be provided as soon as possible in Brighton and Hove. A lack of equipment and support could lead to unnecessary deaths – an unforgivable outcome given the warnings Government have received.” 

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