Letter to the Social Care Sector COVID-19 Support Taskforce

Letter from Sue Ryder CEO, Heidi Travis, to David Pearson of the Social Care Sector COVID-19 Support Taskforce regarding access to testing and PPE for our hospice services.

David Pearson CBE
Chair, Social Care Sector COVID-19 Support Taskforce
Department of Health and Social Care

15 September 2020

Dear Mr Pearson,

As you prepare to publish the Adult Social Care Winter Plan, I'm writing to you to ensure that two fundamental issues are addressed by the government. I recognise that hospices don't necessarily fall neatly into the category of 'social care', but neither do they meet the criteria of 'NHS care'. As such we're asking you to ensure your plan addresses the needs of hospices in their vital role supporting people at the end of life, as well as the value they bring to the wider health and social care system.

Firstly, our frontline hospice staff are having increasing difficulty in accessing tests when they, or someone they've been in contact with, have Covid symptoms. Some have been told that the local NHS has run out of tests, and others are being asked to travel hundreds of miles to get a test, and this problem is now growing. For lower-paid staff or those with carer responsibilities, this is a great concern. In addition, this will limit the number of staff available to work if self-isolating unnecessarily. This situation is obviously affecting the whole population, but in order for our staff to provide care for our vulnerable patients, I urge you to ensure the plan priorities our staff, and others at the frontline, for testing.

Secondly, our hospices are repeatedly being provided with 're-lifed' PPE face masks from the NHS Supply Chain. While there has been NHSE/I guidance that, subject to testing, extending expiry dates is acceptable, we're concerned that masks with an original expiry date of 2014 are being distributed which are past their shelf life. Having raised this with the NHS Supply Chain, we have had no response, and so have removed any such masks out of our stock. I would urge you to ensure the plan allows providers such as ourselves to access safe and consistent PPE which has not been repeatedly 're-lifed'.

I look forward to a response and to seeing how the Adult Social Care Winter Plan addresses these issues.

With best wishes,

Heidi Travis
Chief Executive