Home care boss forced to pay £100 for a box of 50 masks

Home care boss breaks down in tears as she describes paying £100 for a box of 50 masks when she needs 1,000 a week and says staff only have aprons and gloves to protect them

  • Alice Ushamba of Hampshire Healthcare needs more than 200 masks a day
  • But the Government’s response to Covid-19 granted company 300 in total 
  • She says that Downing Street of overlooking community care in the pandemic 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

A care home business boss has revealed her pain at the plight of health workers after she was charged £100 for a set of 50 facemasks. 

Alice Ushamba criticised the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis as she accused Downing Street of overlooking community care.

The health chief, who runs Hampshire Healthcare in the New Forest, revealed that she is being forced to pay 3,300 per cent more for masks compared to pricing before the pandemic. 

Pictured: Hampshire Healthcare workers wear protective masks amid the coronavirus crisis

Pictured: Medics wear personal protective equipment as the pandemic continues to bring the nation to a standstill 

Her company needs more than 200 of the protective items a day, but the Government has issued the firm with just 300 in total.

It’s now costing the company more than £1,500 a week just to ensure workers have the masks.    

She told the BBC’s World at One: ‘We used to buy a box of hundred masks surgical mask for £6. But now we’re buying a box of 50 masks for £60 to £100 pounds.’ 

She added: ‘It’s not sustainable as a business to be spending that on just surgical masks and the quality is questionable because they’re not from my normal supplier’.

A third of her clients have died in the past month – with only one having been tested for coronavirus because they died in hospital.

She said a third of her staff have quit because they feel unsafe due to the lack of PPE.

She said: ‘We’re going into people’s houses who perhaps might have COVID but we don’t have anything to protect ourselves, except a little plastic apron and gloves. That’s all we have.’

The UK yesterday announced 449 more coronavirus deaths – the fewest for a fortnight – taking Britain’s total death toll to 16,509. 

The figures released yesterday showed England declared 429 deaths and a further 20 were confirmed across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And 4,676 more people have tested positive for the virus, taking the total number of patients to 124,743.

Monday’s death toll is a fall on the 596 fatalities announced on Sunday, and half as many as the day before that (888).

Hospitals are on the verge of running out of some life-saving supplies after the 84-tonne delivery, including 400,000 protective gowns, failed to arrive last night.

Medical bodies say shortages mean doctors could need to make ‘difficult decisions’ between exposing themselves to the virus or ‘letting a patient die on their watch’.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced with fanfare on Saturday that the consignment was coming, before Education Secretary Gavin Williams humiliatingly admitted last night that it had been postponed.

However, Chris Hopson, chief of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said this morning there was ‘low confidence’ the materials will actually arrive. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan last week warned that everyone might have to wear masks in public once the lockdown is lifted.

He also called for face masks to be worn why the public when using public transport.

It comes as a group of medics called on people to make their own face masks to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Masks4All suggested homemade masks could slow the spread of Covid-19. The campaign group was started in the Czech Republic, but now has a global following. More than 100 UK medics have lent support to the campaign.

So, which face masks will actually keep you safe?


Homemade mask (Stock image)

WHAT IS IT? From vacuum cleaner bags to sanitary towels and scarves, look online and you will discover that just about anything can be turned into a mask.

COVID-19 EFFECTIVE? A 2013 Public Health England study looked at the suitability of various household materials that could be used as masks to filter bacterial and viral aerosols — and vacuum bags came out well.

Aim for multiple layers — U.S. researchers found that a double layer of tightly-woven cotton with a thread count of at least 180 was one of the best barriers.

WHERE CAN I GET ONE? Search your house and see what’s already there.


The surgical mask (stock image)

WHAT IS IT? The disposable mask that you see surgical staff wearing. These 3-ply masks are fluid-resistant and prevent infected droplets from the surgical staff entering the respiratory system of the patient.

COVID-19 EFFECTIVE? Thin surgical masks protect from large airborne droplets, but won’t block very small particles that may carry the virus. Once wet their efficacy is reduced, which is why they are disposable. But they are considered to offer better protection than a cloth mask.

WHERE CAN I GET ONE? In short supply. The advice is that medical masks should be saved for medical professionals. We found a box of 50 for £65.99 on medisave.co.uk.


DIY store mask (stock image)

WHAT IS IT? Dust masks and other disposable face masks all look similar, but levels of protection against particles that can pass through vary. If it says FFP1 then it’s a basic kind of dust mask (picture left).

COVID-19 EFFECTIVE? More protection than a surgical mask (only if it fits well). But with the lowest level of filtration for this kind of respirator mask (to meet European standards, they have to be able to filter at least 80 per cent of particles) it can’t filter out tiny particles associated with viruses and bacteria.

WHERE CAN I GET ONE? Normally at DIY stores from £1 a mask. Your best option is seeing if a local independent DIY store has stock and delivers.


Cycling mask (stock image)

WHAT IS IT? Neoprene anti-pollution masks. They contain an air filter to stop cyclists breathing in pollution in heavy traffic. But they are not regulated to the same standard as medical masks so protection levels can vary.

COVID-19 EFFECTIVE? While they are untested regarding coronavirus, they are intended to provide a layer of protection from airborne particles. Some are marketed as N95 or N99 grade (the U.S. equivalent to the European regulation rating: Filtering Face Piece, or FFP), which refers to airborne particles filtered — 95 or 99 per cent.

WHERE CAN I GET ONE? UK brand Cambridge Mask Company is taking pre-orders (pictured). Cycling masks are available from Amazon.

THE FFP3 mask

Medical-grade FFP3 mask (Stock image)

WHAT IS IT? Another respirator mask that eliminates even more small airborne particles than the N95/FFP2. FFP3 masks draw air through a filter embedded in the fabric that catches almost all airborne particles.

COVID-19 EFFECTIVE? Short of being a full-on gas mask affair, this is the best protection as long as it fits correctly. The mask blocks out 99 per cent of airborne particles.

WHERE CAN I GET ONE? In short supply, you can normally buy one at Wickes for under £3. The next step up is a heavy-duty reusable respirator used when spraying paint or chemicals — but not comfortable to wear all day.

Report by BETH HALE



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