Care staff ’embarrassed’ when turned away from shops during pandemic – inquiry

Care home staff felt “second best” during the Covid-19 pandemic compared to NHS workers who were prioritised for PPE and benefitted from special shopping hours, an inquiry has heard.

Duncan McDonald, a house manager at Erskine Home in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, during the pandemic, told the Scottish Covid-19 inquiry that social care had always been the “poor cousin” of the NHS, and that this disparity left his staff feeling underappreciated during the pandemic.

The inquiry heard that NHS workers enjoyed priority access to PPE at the start of the pandemic, and benefitted from schemes like free coffee and special shopping hours, which were not always available to care staff.

Mr McDonald (pictured) told the inquiry: “Social care’s always been the poor cousin of care. I’ve got friends in the NHS and massive respect to them, especially during what happened, but we felt that we were the second best again.

“At the start, PPE had been redirected to the NHS, so we were struggling to get PPE. I had people in my street out clapping for the NHS every Thursday night.

“Fair play to them, but we had to get letters from our director to say that we worked in social care, could we get into the shops at the same time?

“And even then staff were getting turned away, and it’s embarrassing to get turned away from shops.”

Mr McDonald also told the inquiry about the challenges his team faced during the pandemic.

This included staff being unable to leave the care home during 12-and-a-half-hour shifts, and the difficulty of supporting vulnerable patients, all of whom were suffering from dementia, while complying with guidelines around PPE and social distancing.

He also told the inquiry that his director took the decision to mandate PPE for visitors to the home in February 2020, ahead of the first official lockdown, in order to protect residents from the virus.

He said: “Our director of care quickly realised that, you could see on the news, it was coming, so it was just a matter of keeping the residents safe and the relatives safe, as much as possible.”

The inquiry continues.

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