Care home that ‘sacked’ Labour MP for raising PPE woes admits it faced shortage

Labour MP Nadia Whittome says she felt “compelled to speak out against the culture of gagging and management bullying generally in the [care] sector”.
Labour MP Nadia Whittome says she felt “compelled to speak out against the culture of gagging and management bullying generally in the [care] sector”.

By S Neeraj Krishna

A CARE HOME that “sacked” Labour MP Nadia Whittome over her “media appearances and speaking out about a lack of PPE” has acknowledged that it did face dearth of supplies.

The Labour lawmaker from Nottingham East had voluntarily returned to care work at Lark Hill Retirement Village as the coronavirus rattled the UK in March. She also pledged to divert her salary to charity activities.

“We need care workers, and me returning is an act of solidarity with my colleagues who are struggling under increased pressure and are already working really hard,” Whittome had told the BBC at that time.

Things took a nasty turn in May as Extra Care charitable Trust, which ran the retirement home in Nottingham, indicated that Whittome had to leave as she raised concerns over PPE shortage.

“Before becoming an MP, I worked in a care home in my hometown of Nottingham, and going back to work in social care was the obvious thing for me to do when the coronavirus pandemic struck,” the lawmaker wrote in the Guardian.

“But now, just over a month after returning to work, I have been effectively sacked: I was on a zero-hours contract and my employer told me not to return to work. This was not for poor performance or gross misconduct, but for speaking out about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) faced by workers on the front line.”

Now, the care home, which reportedly “buried the hatchet” with Whittome, has admitted that it was indeed facing a short-supply of PPE, and Whittome’s concerns were veracious.

“Nadia raised these issues regarding PPE in good faith and with the best interests of everyone involved at heart,” said Mick Laverty, ExtraCare’s chief executive, in a statement revealed by the Mirror.

“In conjunction with Nadia, we made a number of appeals for extra support with PPE supply and, which helped us obtain further supplies of PPE.

“For example, in March 2020 we made several online requests for PPE across social media and requested that Nadia consider recording an appeal video for PPE on 3 April 2020 to help us obtain further supplies.

“We really appreciated her raising these issues which helped highlight the issue of PPE supply chain issues both within Lark Hill and across the care sector.

“Nadia’s work and support during the engagement was of considerable assistance to ExtraCare and our residents.”

Laverty said the management and Whittome had “different views as to the reasons the role came to an end”, adding that the MP and ExtraCare “have discussed this matter further and have subsequently agreed to resolve all matters amicably and informally, so that everyone can move forward”.

Whittome — who had slammed the “policy of gagging and enforced silence” across UK at the time of her sacking – said she was glad to have settled the issue through “dialogue and discussion”.

“I am pleased the various matters have been resolved in relation to my return to frontline care work during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

“I wanted to do whatever I could to support the residents of Lark Hill and to support my care sector colleagues, locally and nationally. I enjoyed being able to help my former colleagues during the Covid-19 outbreak, albeit at a very challenging time for the Care Sector.

“I am pleased that my contribution has been acknowledged and appreciated, including around the various PPE issues affecting the care sector.

“I am pleased we have clarified the situation through dialogue and discussion, so that everyone can now move forward.”

The MP also urged care workers who faced adverse experiences for raising concerns during the pandemic to write to her.

“The ‘keep your head down and keep your mouth shut’ attitude of the sector is not only unethical, it is also dangerous in the context of a deadly virus where speaking out about poor practice has the potential to save lives,” Whittome had noted at the time of her sacking.

The MP added that she had felt “compelled to speak out against the culture of gagging and management bullying generally in the sector”.