Wrack criticises government’s coronavirus response as firefighters are drafted in to train care home staff

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack has criticised the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis as firefighters have been called in to help care home staff.

Firefighters have been asked to deliver special infection, prevention and control (IPC) training packages to care home staff in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus in the sector.

Under the new measure, firefighter volunteers will train care home staff directly on IPC procedures, the “donning and doffing” of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hygiene measures, hand cleaning, and how to safely carry out COVID-19 tests. Designated care home staff will also be taught how to carry out the same training for their colleagues.

The agreement will allow support to be provided to nursing and care homes, domiciliary care, supported independent living and sheltered accommodation.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “The crisis in care homes is a national scandal but our members will do what they can to help. Firefighters, highly trained in the safe use of PPE and infection prevention and control, can provide vital support at this difficult time.

“We’re coming into wildfire season and can expect an incredibly busy few months for firefighters. But, nonetheless, crews have taken on extraordinary new areas of work to support their communities through this pandemic.

“While firefighters are here to help care staff and residents through this crisis, we must be clear that it should never have come to this. The government has disgracefully mishandled this pandemic, allowing the virus to spread into care homes unchecked – and thousands have paid with their lives.”

England’s Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Community Health requested the work, which was followed by a letter from the Westminster Fire Minister.

While the request only came from the Westminster government, the agreement allows firefighters across the UK to support care staff subject to local negotiation. Local resilience forums, care homes and NHS clinical commissioning groups can now write to their fire and rescue service to request the support.

It builds on firefighters’ work face-fitting PPE masks for frontline NHS and care staff, delivering PPE and medical supplies to NHS and care facilities, and assisting in taking COVID-19 test samples.

Firefighters have now signed up to a total of 14 new areas of work including moving dead bodies, driving ambulances, and delivering food and medicines to vulnerable people.

The agreement contains a number of measures to prevent cross-infection between vulnerable individuals, care home staff and firefighters. Firefighters will take measures to prevent clothing and equipment that may have been exposed to the virus from contaminating fire engines, including using sterilised safety bags.

All those volunteering for the work will need appropriate training, PPE, and high standards of hygiene and social distancing must be carried out. Services will need to follow a generic risk assessment, provided by the FBU, NFCC, and National Employers.

More than 11,000 people have died due to coronavirus in UK care homes with the government coming under fierce criticism for allowing infections to spread through the sector.

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