It’s not unusual for private companies to be contracted by the NHS. Since 2015, an estimated £15bn worth of NHS contracts have been carried out by independent healthcare firms. Those who are employed privately within healthcare businesses still work for the NHS, but they have gone unrecognised in recent media coverage of Covid-19. With some workers missing out on exclusive shopping hours and retail discounts as a result.
I interviewed an in-direct NHS worker carrying out contracted healthcare in a private opticians. She explained that the business hadn’t received any bursary PPE from the Government:
“We’ve had to buy our own PPE equipment and we’ve not been reimbursed for it either.
“[It is] quite a close contact job when you’ve got to be within inches or centimeters of people’s faces, even down to get them to sign a piece of paper – you’ve got to touch a pen that they’ve touched.”
“We’ve had to go by [government] guidelines and it’s been very confusing.”
Funding for PPE has been prioritised to those on the ‘front line,’ leaving in-direct workers exposed in an equally high-risk environment. Optical healthcare firms are ranked high in the most at-risk professions for exposure to Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The government claims that it is doing it’s best to protect NHS staff:
“We will continue to do everything we can to protect the NHS and make sure it can continue to deliver the essential services people rely on.”
Yet, in-direct NHS workers remain exposed in the background of the on-going Coronavirus pandemic, with little evidence of change. Perhaps the second lockdown will provide better opportunities for these forgotten workers to receive the PPE that they deserve.