Leader’s care homes plea

Report by Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Council’s leader has warned localised outbreaks of coronavirus in care homes are “rapidly increasing” as she urged ministers to protect staff and residents.

Nesil Caliskan called on the government to step up its response to the coronavirus pandemic and ensure enough personal protective equipment such as face masks reaches “forgotten” care homes and care workers.

Enfield Council leader Nesil Caliskan

The leader claimed there had never been enough stock of the equipment at Enfield care homes to last “more than two or three days”.

She also urged the government to roll out a testing programme for Covid-19 large enough to keep workers and those being cared for safe.

Her pleas came in a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock sent a day before the tragic death of Enfield care worker Sonya Kaygan, who worked at Elizabeth Lodge Care Home in Winchmore Hill.

Cllr Caliskan wrote: “Our intelligence is telling us that localised Covid-19 outbreaks in our care homes are rapidly increasing.

“The right equipment, in the right volumes, must be distributed to care homes and care workers quickly.

“To date, this has not been the case, and in Enfield there has never been enough stock to at any one time to last more than two or three days, causing great anxiety to care homes.”

The council leader called for an “agile, targeted” testing programme “deployed at sufficient scale to keep workers and those being cared for safe”.

She added: “I am very concerned that the recent pledge to accelerate testing for Covid-19 presently remains well below the 100,000 tests per day you have committed the government to providing by Thursday 30th April. I would hope that you can now share a clear trajectory with us to show how that target will be met.”

Cllr Caliskan said that in the week beginning 6th April there were just ten testing places available for a care workforce of 5,000 staff in Enfield – and some had to travel all the way to Wembley to take part.

The council leader also called on the government to include Covid-19-related deaths in care homes and the wider community in the overall death figures that are announced daily. Currently, the official toll only includes deaths recorded in hospitals.

The National Care Forum (NCF), which represents care providers, estimates around 4,000 residents had died from Covid-19 within UK residential and nursing services up to Monday 13th April.

The NCF called for sufficient personal protective equipment “both now and in the weeks ahead”, along with routine testing of staff and residents to protect them against Covid-19.

In a separate letter to care staff, Cllr Caliskan thanked them for doing an “amazing job” at an “incredibly difficult” time.

She said it felt like the care sector had been “forgotten about by the government” but reassured staff the council was lobbying for better equipment, testing and reporting of mortality figures.

The Department for Health and Social Care was approached for comment.