STAFF at some Swindon care homes have had their hours cut to help cover costs of personal protective equipment in the coronavirus pandemic.

Coate Water Care workers at Church View, Downs View and Ashbury Lodge now face a dip in their income because their shifts have been reduced by two hours a week.

It’s been described by one as a kick in the teeth.

A letter to employees seen by the Adver said: “The impact of reduced occupancy, supporting staff in isolation and inflated costs of PPE has required us to consider short-term actions to ensure medium and long-term stability.

“We believe that if we cut every staff members’ hours temporarily... we can continue to maintain the business. Managers have been working out how we can make this change while maintaining the safety of residents.

“This temporary change... will only be kept in place until we are through this crisis and occupancy recovers and PPE costs come into more manageable levels.”

One source told the Adver: “It’s a kick in the teeth for the staff who have worked really hard during this crisis.

“The company says it’s doing really well then changes their contract so they lose some of their pay. I wonder if any of the managers had to take a pay cut.”

Although the letter to staff links the increased costs of PPE to the decision to cut hours, the care home’s managers denied that this was the reason behind it.

A spokesman said: “Covid-19 has presented care providers with significant challenges in terms of balancing staffing levels with occupancy against a backdrop of a merciless pandemic.

“PPE equipment has been difficult to source and at staggering prices. This has never been experienced since the establishment of the NHS in 1948 to the evolution of the health and social care sector as we now know it.

“The promised measures to stamp out profiteering have not materialised. Care homes have been left at the mercy of a free market effectively holding the sector to ransom.

“This at a time when all resources were being diverted to and focused upon the NHS. As a Swindon-based group we have experienced this at first hand locally, nationally, and internationally.

“Our staff teams who have helped us to deliver huge improvements in care have worked tirelessly with a commitment to maintain high quality care and have contracts of employment that enable working hours to be adjusted dependent upon the needs of our services.

“The senior management team took the view that to apply this arbitrarily would be unfair and hamper effective workforce planning. In consultation with our human resource partners and teams, we applied an across the board temporary policy to apply this contractual clause.

“This decision was not related to the cost of PPE.

“We have adjusted the hours of workforce to reflect the needs and numbers of residents as we address other pressures.

“The needs of our residents and the security of staff employment have been our drivers in this issue.

“Swindon`s economy has been hurt significantly over the past few years - the unemployment figures released earlier this week make for very unsettling times ahead for business.

“We made a difficult decision to save jobs and lives during an appalling period to ensure safe and predictable business continuity and safe care.

“Pre-coronavirus, Coate Water Care had spent huge time and energy in improving our three homes in Swindon.

“From a starting point in 2016, the newly-appointed senior operational team of Sue and Paul Houldey set about improving the CQC performance of Down`s View (Requires Improvement) Ashbury lodge (Requires Improvement) and Church View (Inadequate) to the position now celebrated in Swindon.

“Ashbury Lodge and Church View achieved good ratings while Down`s View joined the elite care homes within England having being rated as outstanding in March.”

“During this period, Coate Water Care and some employees were nominated for regional and national awards culminating in the winning of The National Care Association`s Member Of The Year in December at The House Of Commons.”