Fife’s home carers fear they are being sent into the community unprotected due to a “woeful” lack of crucial safety equipment.
Social care staff are having to visit people with multiple health issues without any personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, aprons and gloves, thanks to a UK-wide shortage.
This is despite not knowing in advance whether the people they are supporting are displaying covid-19 symptoms.
The Scottish Government has announced improvements to the distribution of PPE, and unions have called for a “constant and readily available” supply and clear instructions on what to do should none be available.
The have also requested support for staff mental health and wellbeing throughout the coronavirus crisis.
In a letter to Fife Council chief executive Steve Grimmond, Unison branch secretary Debbie Thompson said she did not believe there were adequate risk assessments or protection for carers.
Calling for steps to ensure staff were equipped for various situations, along with clear explanations of what PPE should be used, she said: “This is available for health settings but unfortunately is sadly lacking for social care environments.”
Ms Thompson added: “Social care staff cannot always control their environment.
“This is particularly relevant for our members working in the care at home service where service users often have multiple health-related issues, including dementia, so asking them if they have a cough or a fever is not a protection against the virus as some simply don’t understand the question.
“I understand that PPE is distributed on the basis of confirmed or suspected covid-19 cases, a position I find ludicrous given the lack of testing, not just here in Fife but across Scotland.
“The lack of appropriate PPE is not an issue specific to social care and I do understand there is a shortage across the whole of the UK.
“That said, this cannot be used as an excuse to send our members out into the community unprotected.”
The Scottish Government said regular supplies of PPE would be available to those on the frontline who need it, including home carers.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said 34 million PPE items had been delivered to hospitals over the last four to six weeks and added: “The safety of our health and social care workforce is an absolute priority and we are continuously looking to improve the distribution of the protective equipment that is so vital in the fight against covid-19.
“We will be issuing almost eight million items of PPE stock in the coming week to support primary care and social care.”
Fife Health and Social Care Partnership was approached for comment.
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