Southwark Council supplied 800,000 pieces of PPE to care providers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and is now in a stable position after a “vulnerable” start. 

The council is also planning to continue to ring care users to check up on them after lockdown after it was found to be “rewarding” for both users and officers.  

Genette Laws, head of commissioning at Southwark, gave the figures at a health and social care scrutiny commission meeting on Monday (June 22), where she gave an update on the impact of Covid-19 on residents and staff in care homes and the home care service.

She said more than 55 people – the previous official figure – had died in care homes in Southwark from Covid-19, but did not publicly give the figure.

However, 70 per cent of Southwark residents requiring nursing beds are placed out borough.

“We provided in total over 800,000 pieces of PPE across all of our care providers. 

“In terms of home care that was nearly 728,000 pieces of PPE and over 68,000 items of PPE for our care homes,” she said, adding that the collaboration between London boroughs had helped with the process.  

Ms Laws said Southwark had now found a “steady supply of PPE to support providers” with emergency supplies should they need it.  

Discussing lessons learned from the pandemic, she said the council will continue to have a “bank of last resort”, which is a minimum supply of PPE, at all times. 

“The welfare calls which were undertaken by the contract monitoring officers, which was ringing the service users in their homes to check they were ok, is something that we want to continue doing even as we move back into whatever form of business as usual this is in terms of contract monitoring.  

“We’re not just going to rely on visits, particularly for home care, to their officers and looking at records.  

“The service users really valued having the call and that was something that the monitoring officers found really rewarding – that’s an important dimension that really speaks to the values of the council […]” 

It emerged that the rate of absence during the pandemic was lower for Southwark Council staff compared to other boroughs, which Ms Laws said was partly down to adoption of Unison’s Ethical Care Charter.

The charter is a set of commitments for councils which fix minimum standards that “will protect the dignity and quality of life for those people and the workers who care for them” – Southwark was one of the first councils to adopt it.

As a result the council is prioritising plans to adopt the Residential Care Charter, which focuses on care homes. 

April Ashley, from trade union Unison Southwark, spoke at the meeting and told the commission there had big issues with PPE guidance, which was “constantly changing”. 

“A lot of the guidance about PPE was about what the Government could obtain rather than the health and safety of our members,” she said.  

Ms Ashley said a lot of carers didn’t get the required PPE in the beginning and said some providers failed to tell carers about the frequent changes to guidance.  

She said what needs to be concentrated on now is “full pay for carers”, including statutory sick pay.