THERE are demands to tighten up how agency workers operate as coronavirus strikes a fifth care home.

It has been claimed that unprotected agency workers who are travelling from home to home are inadvertently spreading Covid-19 across Brighton and Hove in a “perfect storm”.

MP Peter Kyle said failure to do more to stop this spread within care homes amounted to a “crime” as the disease, which is increasingly fatal to older people, hit yet another facility in the city.

The agencies providing the workers say banning them travelling between care homes would mean people “would not be able to eat, drink, have medication”.

It comes amid a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), with one of the city’s largest care providers stating it would not be able to look after Covid-19 patients due to lack of protection.

Speaking about the city’s escalating care home crisis, Hove and Portslade MP Mr Kyle said: “It can only get into a care home via staff and it is a crime that more isn’t being done. I am calling for the Department of Health and Social Care to prevent agency workers or care home workers travelling between homes, but also that they are offered support to do so.

“I have said from the outset that agencies would need to recruit more staff as they would have to assign staff to specific care homes and keep them there, which would require more resources that the Government should be providing.”

There are unfolding tragedies in care homes across Europe as they become pandemic frontlines.

Nursing homes account for about one in four Covid-19 deaths in France and about a third in Spain. Thirteen people in Scotland died in a single home amid a suspected outbreak.

There are fears of a “perfect storm” brewing in Brighton, with agency workers, who do not have access to enough protective equipment, travelling from home to home.

Worried family members, who themselves are barred from visiting their loved ones, are calling for action.

Penny Sands, 65, whose mother Mary Parker, 89, lives in New Larchwood, sheltered accommodation in Coldean, has concerns.

She said: “It really shows up the failings of the care system which relies on people coming in from outside when you have a crisis situation – it shows how rocky its foundations are if the care staff get sick.

“I’m concerned about that and I’m also concerned that staff are having to put up signs telling people not to visit residents. I don’t want my mother to die.

“In her case, she has her care provided by agency, the care staff going into her sheltered accommodation could then be sent anywhere.

“They themselves pose a risk as far as I could tell as none of them have any PPE.”

The Private Care Company in Hove, whose staff go from residential home to home, said banning the practice would mean clients would not be able to eat or drink.

Manager Josie Kennedy said there was a national shortage of carers which meant care homes relied on agency staff.

The Private Care Company has 120 carers, who are all employed for set routes in the city.

She said: “All of our staff are employed and carrying out infection control techniques. Everyone is currently running out of PPE and we don’t have the appropriate PPE to care for people if they present with symptoms.

“If any of our clients presented with the symptoms, we have already advised them and the council that we can’t care for them because we don’t have the appropriate PPE and also that carer would then be going into another vulnerable person’s home.”

Care home managers have told The Argus they are instructed to use the limited supply of equipment they have once a resident displays symptoms.

They worry that may already be too late as it is feared coronavirus can spread asymptomatically.

Lindridge Care Home in Laburnum Avenue, Hove, Craven Vale in Craven Road, Brighton, and Oaklands Nursing Home in Dyke Park Avenue have all been hit by the virus.

Fairdene Lodge in Walsingham Road, Hove, also now has a confirmed case, with other residents and staff displaying symptoms.

Care home owner Maria Welch said: “This is understandably a time of concern for everyone but the safety of our residents and staff must always be our primary concern.”