As COVID19 spreads across the country, I have spent much of this week trying to help the 35 care homes in South Shropshire build their preparedness for if, and perhaps more likely when, this wretched disease affects them.
With around 30% of South Shropshire’s population over retirement age, we clearly have a substantial proportion of those at greater risk, and needing to shield themselves. The number of people aged 90 or above in South Shropshire has more than doubled in my time as your MP, many in residential or receiving domiciliary care locally.
On Easter Monday the number of care homes where residents or staff have symptoms rose to 1 in 7 across the country, with Shropshire homes seeming to lag a few days behind other areas.
I am very much aware of concerns being raised about PPE supplies in the national press. I have been kept updated by NHS and Council leaders in Shropshire through weekly briefings. The Government three point PPE plan, which came out last week, has clarified guidance for the most appropriate PPE for those in care homes and for domiciliary carers in home settings.
Mobilising military logistics to distribute available supplies to ensure the right equipment is in the right place is a critical part of this plan. I have been in touch with each of the care homes and the largest domiciliary care providers to ensure they are aware of the PPE hotlines and key points of contact within the Shropshire CCG and the Local Resilience Forum covering Shropshire.
There have also been major efforts to increase PPE supply, both from established suppliers overseas facing a massive simultaneous increase in global demand, and from new suppliers in the UK. Some of these are here in Shropshire, such as DMS Plastics, which has turned some of its automotive plastic component capacity into making visors for local care home staff.
I have called publicly for the Treasury to zero rate VAT on PPE for those who need it. We the public are extremely grateful to the fabulous nurses and carers working flat out to keep everyone else safe. They must be kept safe too.
I shall be ringing the bell in my local church at 8pm tonight (Thursday) to say thank you to all our NHS and care staff.