A NURSE at Malvern Community Hospital has hit back at claims that conditions there are creating a “cauldron of infection” for Covid-19.

A ‘whistle-blower’ employee, who does not want to be named, has made a number of allegations concerning the hospital in Worcester Road, Malvern.

They said six members of staff on a dementia ward have tested positive for Covid-19 and are off work isolating at home.

Dementia patients who have tested positive for the virus are arriving on the wards but nurses are not being given the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard their health, the employee claimed, describing a culture of “apathy”.

Images taken by this staffmember show an unlabelled mask in a container which is not suitable for storage and a box of masks with a 2016 use by date.

They said staff morale at the hospital was at an all-time low and managers do not listen to the concerns of employees - including those raised through the use of ‘incident forms’ for reporting issues such as spitting and other types of assault on workers.

It is also alleged that there are no wipes for patients and work surfaces, putting everyone at risk of picking up the virus.

Finally, the source claims there are not enough nurses or health care assistants to deal with patients, which means dementia sufferers are not supervised at all times.

However, Cara Warnock, an advanced nurse practitioner who has worked at Malvern Community Hospital for four years, said: “Working in a hospital treating both Covid and non-Covid patients during this pandemic has been really challenging in all sorts of ways, but from the start we have had the equipment, information and wider support to minimise the risk.

“Clearly as a nurse at the moment there are additional risks but we have good supplies of PPE, and our infection control team have worked tirelessly and around the clock to support us to ensure we are following all the national guidelines.

“It is really important that people are reassured that Malvern Hospital is safe both for patients and staff and that we have the plans in place to maintain that over the coming months. The support we have had from each other, from other colleagues across the Trust, and from other the wider community has helped keep our spirits up which has been so important for us all."

A spokesman for the Worcestershire Health & Care NHS Trust added: “Earlier this month a small number of patients tested positive for Covid-19 and following public health advice we tested all our staff as a precautionary measure.

“Over 60 staff were tested of which six were positive and have since been instructed to self-isolate. We also put plans in place to protect other patients on the wards.

“Our community hospitals are currently treating patients with more serious illness than they may have done traditionally as part of our overall system plans to ensure we have the capacity we need in urgent or emergency hospitals during the pandemic.

“All staff are trained in supporting patients with dementia, and we also have registered mental health nurses, including the hospital matron, working at Malvern Hospital.

“In line with infection prevention guidance we are instructing all windows on wards to remain open.

“While not routinely worn when treating non-covid patients, visors have been available for staff to use since March. This includes visors distributed nationally as part of PPE supplies and those donated to the hospital by the local community which were deemed appropriate for use.

“Infection prevention protocols has evolved during the pandemic and, in line with national advice, we have issued updated guidance in recent weeks encouraging staff to wear visors over their face masks - not just for patients who are positive or symptomatic but for other patient groups.

“We have no supply issues with visors or any other PPE and have provided staff across our community hospitals with appropriate supplies.

“All our masks were distributed to us from the national supply and were rigorously tested for their effectiveness prior to being sent to us - hand wipes and wipes for surfaces are available throughout the hospital.”

NHS England has made a statement on the issue of apparent use by/expiration dates on PPE.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “Some products may appear to have out-of-date ‘use by/expiration’ dates or have relabelled ‘use by/expiration’ dates. Please be assured products being issued have passed stringent tests that demonstrate they are safe.

“The PPE is exposed to extreme conditions for prolonged periods, to see how the product deteriorates. All that are not up to standard are destroyed and not distributed to trusts. We have been working with independent test facilities and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who, after being provided with scientific evidence, we’re content with our assessment that these are safe to use by NHS staff.”

The spokesman for the trust said instances of assault are taken seriously and staffing levels are safe and are reviewed on a daily basis.

The trust spokesman added: “We actively encourage staff to report incidents of assault and these are reviewed by senior staff at our regular quality and safety meetings. Our health and safety team have recently discussed security concerns with staff and our health and wellbeing lead has also visited Malvern, as well as our other sites, to ensure staff have continued support.

“We have daily reviews across all our community hospitals to ensure our staffing levels are right for the patients we are treating. Staff are well versed in how to request additional support. As above our community hospitals are supporting patients who might ordinarily have required acute hospital care at the moment as part of our overall local covid response, but all staff are trained to support all the patients who are admitted, including those with dementia.”