PPE supply in Welsh care homes was 'inconsistent', COVID Inquiry hears

February 28, 2024

The supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in Welsh care homes was 'inconsistent', the UK COVID Inquiry has been told.

Wales's commissioner for older people, Helena Herklots, said some of the people she represented felt their lives "weren't valued" and "weren't important".

"Some homes had the PPE that they needed, but others were really struggling to get it, trying to purchase it directly themselves, or struggling to secure it from the distribution mechanisms that were then in place," she said.

"So it was causing quite a lot of homes a lot of anxiety and stress about not having the PPE that they needed."

This is the first of three weeks in which the UK COVID Inquiry is sitting in Cardiff.

On Tuesday, the inquiry heard first minister Mark Drakeford "regularly" used WhatsApp to "clarify COVID rules".

The commissioner told the inquiry that, in the very early stages of the pandemic in Wales, people who were dying from COVID in care homes "weren't even being counted".

"I thought that was extraordinary and I found it then, [and] still find it very distressing actually," she added.

When asked by inquiry chair Baroness Hallett why this appeared to be the case, Ms Herklots said "I don't know why".

Initially, the commissioner felt she had the "opportunities [she] needed" to speak with the deputy minister for social services, Julie Morgan.

However, Ms Morgan sent a letter in response to the commissioner on 21 April 2020 in which she said she was "not convinced" an additional plan of action would "add value".

Ms Herklots said this response was "inadequate" and she said she had been "angered" by it.

"At a time when people were dying in care homes, families were distraught, I just thought the response was inadequate," she said.

Read more:
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The families in Wales who want answers over COVID response

The commissioner also told the inquiry that the messaging about protecting the NHS was "having a damaging effect on some older people".

"It deterred them from seeking help when I think they should have done," she added.

The inquiry continues.

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