"It's taking its toll on a human level": how Lancashire's businesses are being affected by the coronavirus outbreak

As the coronavirus outbreak gathers pace in the UK, businesses in Lancashire have been giving an insight into how they are being affected.

Friday, 20th March 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th March 2020, 12:23 pm

Home care

Michelle Richardson, owner of Red Rose Care in Bamber Bridge, has asked for more help from health and government bodies.

The home care service she operates with husband Alistair caters for adults over the age of 18, but is mainly focused on the 'at risk' group of people over the age of 70 and those needing end-of-life care.

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Staff at Leyland Late Night Pharmacy are wearing face masks and gloves, as a precaution against coronavirus. Pictured: Richard Snape, Kate Catterall, Danni Daly and Liam Kitchen

The business was set up in 2013 after the death of Michelle's parents, and she continues to work as a nurse at Chorley Hospital as well as run the business.

Michelle said: "It's very challenging at the moment. We're a business operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we can't just shut up shop.

"We have 38 members of staff and everyone's worried.

"We've had a few cancellations. Families are understandably worried about the over 70s and social distancing. But we also have very vulnerable people who don't have any family and we have to see them.

Photo Neil Cross. Staff at Leyland Late Night Pharmacy are wearing face masks and gloves, as a precaution against coronavirus. Owner Rizwan Akhtar

"We've also got demand from the NHS because of bed-blocking. They want to free up beds by getting people cared for in their homes."

She added: "Because of the vulnerable people we work with, we need to use personal protective equipment (PPE), but we haven't been sent anything at all from the local authority.

"Fortunately, because we've been planning, we have a lot of it ourselves. We use aprons and gloves as standard, but we're also now using things like shoe covers, hand gels and alco-wipes. We can't get any face masks at all though.

"We don't have anyone identified as having coronavirus, but then again, how would we know? People are not being tested."

Michelle Richardson of Red Rose Care

Michelle said her office staff were working from home, which was "not ideal" and staff with children were "stressed" and waiting to hear from schools about how their children - as children of key workers - would be educated.

She added: "People are panicking, which is understandable. They are asking about sick pay, and all the time, things are changing. The authorities need to work and reassure us."

Lancashire County Council said a conference for adult social care providers in Lancashire scheduled for today at County Hall in Preston is now web-only.

A spokesman for LCC said: “Personal Protective Equipment will be supplied to providers as quickly as possible based on national supply chains being fully mobilised and we are liaising with Lancashire care firms about this issue.”

Michelle, who is a registered nurse, is also working shifts at Chorley Hospital, manning the 111 triage phone line.

She said: "I love the NHS, we're all doing our best under extreme circumstances. I'm putting in extra hours doing telephone triage and the the phonecalls are continuous, the volume is horrendous.

"I don't remember anything in my 32-year nursing career on this scale."

Pharmacy staff

Pharmacy staff have also spoken out about the pressure they are under because of the outbreak.

Liam Kitchen, who works for Leyland Late Night Pharmacy in Hough Lane, said the situation was "horrendous".

He said: "We shut at 9am and we're usually out by 9.10pm. But recently staff have been staying until 3am. There's a huge back-up because people are going to their doctor and getting excess prescriptions.

"We're seeing way more demand than during our normal busy periods, such as at Bank Holidays or over Christmas. It's unprecedented.

"We open at 7am and it's steady till about 9am when it's chaos."

He added: "We're also seeing increased prices from our suppliers for things like paracetamol, children's liquid paracetamol and hand sanitiser. We're having shortages and we're having to ration them.

"It's taking it's toll on a human level.

"In the NHS you do get abuse, it happens, but at the moment it's more difficult because people are upset, angry and scared.

"But we're doing as much as we can to help and we're expanding our services by bringing people like chiropodists into the shop to alleviate pressure elsewhere."

Staff at the pharmacy have been asked to wear face masks at all time as well as gloves, and a row of chairs has been set up in the shop to keep people away from the counter. Customers are being asked to leave their prescriptions for the staff to pick up.