Care homes are struggling to buy food and are being prevented from purchasing in bulk by supermarkets which are not giving them the same priority as NHS workers, some have warned.
The National Care Association, which represents more than 600 small and medium-sized care homes, said some members have been unable to stock up adequately. One operator told the Guardian the latest order from their wholesaler was delivered on Wednesday with half of the items missing.
“We have stories of people being turned away from supermarkets because they are not considered key workers,” said Nadra Ahmed, the executive chairman of the industry body. Providers said choice has been cut back and residents were not getting food they necessarily liked.
The issue is part of a list of problems that care homes are facing as they brace for outbreaks of the virus, and increased demand to look after chronically ill people, to free up capacity in the NHS. Leaders are concerned about a lack of personal protective equipment, the need to train staff in “barrier nursing”, which increases hygiene levels, a lack of testing and staff shortages.
Ahmed said that in a small minority of cases, operators were warning they might not be able to continue to operate because of staff self-isolating and going off sick.
“People are making the choice not to work in this setting,” Ahmed said. “Members are starting to say they may not be able to continue to operate as a care home, because we don’t have the staff.”
She said she was contacted on Wednesday by a provider with two homes who said they were unsure how much longer they were going to be able to continue.
Small and medium-sized care homes often rely on supermarket deliveries and have not been granted any priority over members of the public or the right to buy in bulk.
“It has been a nightmare,” said Robin Hall, who runs the Home of Comfort nursing home in Hampshire.
“We can’t get a Tesco delivery for love nor money,” said Andrea Pattison, owner of the St Ronans Care Home in Southsea. “Before this becomes a problem, we need to think about how we are going to secure this. If the NHS food supplies are being secured, can’t they do the same for social care?”
Source: The Guardian