Care homes up and down the country have warned they are running out of personal protective equipment as they battle the coronavirus.
The warning comes as more and more homes report cases of the potentially deadly virus.
Kelly Andrews, GMB Care Lead, warned the social care system was in “danger of total collapse” during the pandemic.
“Our carers are distraught that they have to work with little or no PPE and, horrifyingly, are being told that if a resident tests positive then they cannot return home,” she said.
“Despite being on the frontline, and utterly vital to stop our society from crumbling, they are on minimum wage, with unpaid breaks and are unable to rely on schools for childcare.
“And to rub salt in the wound, if they become ill they either have to try and support their families on poverty sick pay – or turn up to work ill which could be a death sentence for residents.”
The GMB is calling for all care providers to pay their staff full salaries during the outbreak.
The Broughtons in Salford, where a resident has developed coronavirus symptoms, is one of the many homes running out of protective face masks for their staff.
Director Bob Dhaliwal, of the Well Being Care Group, told the BBC the home had only a week’s supply remaining from 300 masks that were delivered last Thursday.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has said a million masks had been bought over the weekend and delivered to health and social care.
Bob said it was proving impossible to get hold of the masks recommended by Public Health England.
“We can’t order them – no other suppliers have them – so we are relying on the local authority to send us more,” he said.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are working around the clock to give the social care sector and wider-NHS the equipment and support they need to tackle this outbreak.
“We have delivered millions more items of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff at care homes, home care providers and hospices as well as to hospitals, ambulance trusts, GP practices and pharmacists.
“The full weight of the Government is behind this effort and we are working closely with industry, social care providers, the NHS, and the army to ensure the right equipment continues to be delivered.”
The NHS supply distribution helpline can answer PPE calls and emails 24/7 via the supply disruption helpline on 0800 915 9964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org