“Where is the training? The PPE?” – unions challenge government over coronavirus

Unions have challenged the government over the availability of staff training and personal protective equipment during the coronavirus crisis.

The RCM, which last month warned members were working without adequate equipment, says just half of midwives had received advice or training, while UNISON, which has set up a whistleblower hotline so members can share their concerns over a lack of PPE, said the promised PPE had failed to arrive at care homes.

The RCM is calling on NHS trusts and boards to provide better support to maternity staff after a survey revealed that nearly a third of midwives had received no advice or training they need to care for women with coronavirus symptoms.

The survey found that more than half (56%) of midwives had received some advice and training, with just 15% saying that they had received adequate support.

The survey of RCM workplace representatives also found that there is significant disparity in the information being given by employers on what midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) should do if they or someone in their household displays symptoms of coronavirus infection. One in 10 of those responding to the survey had received no information from their employer at all.

RCM Executive Director of External Relations Jon Skewes said: “Midwives and maternity support workers are doing all they can to continue to provide the safe care pregnant women want and need. However, we are concerned that their employers – the NHS Trusts and Boards – are not demonstrating that level of commitment to them. We fully acknowledge that they are working under extreme pressure, but this is when the duty of care to their staff is even more important.

“Maternity services are the NHS frontline, and midwives and MSWs are willingly placing themselves on it. We welcome the clarity provided by the guidance on personal protective equipment issued last week, but protection goes beyond a mask and gloves. It means ensuring those frontline staff are adequately and appropriately supported to provide care and minimise risk, both to themselves and others. NHS Trusts and Boards must step up and make this happen.”

And responding to reports from Number 10 that nearly 8m pieces of personal protective equipment have been delivered to care homes, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Thousands of care staff have contacted UNISON to say getting protective kit is still a real issue and they don’t have what they need.

“Many are scared for themselves, their families and those they look after. Staff need to be protected otherwise the consequences don’t bear thinking about.”

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