Coronavirus: Care homes 'refused kit because stock reserved for England'

By Catrin Haf Jones
BBC Wales political correspondent

GlovesImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Protective equipment is needed for staff who work in the care homes

A care home owner in Wales says she has been refused personal protective equipment (PPE) because her suppliers are reserving stock for English customers.

Ceri Roberts runs two care homes in Porthmadog and Criccieth in Gwynedd.

She told BBC Wales two suppliers had declined to sell to her when she tried to buy aprons and gloves for her staff.

The Welsh Government said care homes could access PPE through councils if they experienced issues.

One supplier told her it was selling stock "on behalf of Public Health England".

Ms Roberts said she became aware of a problem on Wednesday morning.

"I tried to buy them, but only customers in England were allowed to," she said.

The supplies are essential daily equipment in her care homes, which have 78 residents - each cared for by two people who require the protective equipment.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ceri Roberts says she is worried stocks to protect her residents and staff will run out

One of the companies, Gompels Health Care, told her: "We notice that your order includes products which we are selling on behalf of Public Health England, and we can only deliver these products for people who operate in England. Different schemes exist for Scotland and Wales."

The other company, according to Ceri Roberts, said their supplies had to go to customers in England, but if any were left over she would be allowed to buy them.

In the end she managed to obtain two packs of a hundred disposable aprons - "but they won't last long, maybe two days".

There are no current suspected cases of Covid-19 in her care homes, but she said she was very concerned about the supply of masks if there was.

"I'm worried about giving them out too early in case we run out and there won't be any stocks left for staff if we get cases here," she said.

Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionydd, said it was a "ticking time bomb".

She called on the Welsh Government to "urgently" say what is being done to ensure the care sector has "immediate access to PPE".

"We're seeing it in Scotland already with 13 residents tragically passing away in a care home in Glasgow due to Covid-19 and a lack of personal protective equipment.

"I fear the same thing will happen in Wales unless we address this now."

When approached by BBC Wales, a spokesperson for Gompels Health Care said any questions should be directed to Public Health England, who referred the question on to the UK Department of Health and Social Care.

BBC Wales has asked the department to respond to the claims.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Welsh Government said social services had been asked to co-ordinate distribution of supplies to care homes

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The Welsh Government has provided all local authorities with access to supplies of PPE via the network of local authority joint community equipment stores across Wales.

"Directors of social services have been asked to manage and co-ordinate the distribution of stock to care providers in their areas.

"If care homes are having a problem accessing stock through their normal suppliers, we have made contingency arrangements for them to access PPE via their local authority."