Now we can care safely: Just 48 hours after Mail Force’s £1million PPE airlift, vital supplies reach care homes and heroic staff give their verdict… as donations soar to £4.2million

  • For further information about the Mail Force charity and to donate, click here 
  • Mail Force van yesterday arrived at Shedfield Lodge care home bringing vital personal protection equipment
  • Last remaining supplies of face masks had been due to run out Sunday after failures from home’s PPE supplier 
  • Mail Force donations at £4.2million as readers contributed £300,000 and Michael Spencer gave £250,000
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

They have been called the forgotten front in the war against Covid-19.

Diligent, devoted but under-equipped, they are the staff of Britain’s embattled care homes. But no one was feeling forgotten yesterday when Mail Force arrived at Shedfield Lodge care home bringing vital personal protection equipment.

Following a six-week ban on all visitors, the new charity – created by the Mail and its partners – could not have been more welcome.

‘This is a huge weight off all our minds. It’s just amazing,’ said Maria Willis, 32, head of care at this home near Southampton for 29 elderly residents with dementia. ‘It’s very touching to think that so many people out there want to help.’

We’ve got you covered: Maria Willis and Megan Wills with David Stephenson, 88, at Shedfield Lodge care home in Hampshire

Many of the duty staff, along with beaming resident David Stephenson, 88, came out to see the Mail Force van arriving with boxes of coveralls and masks. As it turned out, they could not have come a moment too soon. 

The last remaining supplies of face masks were due to run out on Sunday after multiple failures by the care home’s PPE suppliers which yesterday reported they had been ‘scammed’ by a fraudster and were going into liquidation.


Mail Force Charity has been launched with one aim to help support NHS staff, volunteers and care workers fight back against Covid-1 in the UK.

Mail Force is a separate charity established and supported by the Daily Mail and General Trust. 

The money raised will fund essential equipment required by the NHS and care workers. 

This equipment is vital in protecting the heroic staff whilst they perform their fantastic work in helping the UK overcome this pandemic.

If we raise more money than is needed for vital Covid-1 equipment, we will apply all funds to support the work of the NHS in other ways.

Click the button below to make a donation:

If the button is not visible, click here 

Having been scrupulously Covid-free for three weeks – since losing one resident to the virus – the staff had been seriously worried how they were going to keep things that way. 

Staying safe is now going to be a great deal easier thanks to Mail Force’s intervention. The charity, created by the Mail and its partners, Salesforce and Marshall Wace, continued to attract an extraordinary response from the public yesterday.

Contributions from Mail readers sailed past the £300,000 mark while the businessman and philanthropist Michael Spencer donated £250,000, taking the total raised so far to an incredible £4.2million. The campaign began in earnest only on Tuesday night.

That was when Mail Force flew an airliner packed with 20 tons of PPE from China to London before delivering its £1million cargo straight to the NHS distribution centre in the Midlands.

Thanks to the speed and scale of public support, plans are now underway to bring further airlifts in the days and weeks ahead.

The charity has worked with the Department of Health to identify key products and then seek fresh supplies from reliable sources.

Three things are in huge global demand – isolation gowns, coveralls and masks – and NHS staff have voiced their deep appreciation for these efforts.

However, Mail Force is determined the care sector is included in this process, too.

Last night, Nadra Ahmed, executive chairman of the Care Association, which represents small and medium-sized independent homes, expressed her thanks for the charity’s work.

‘We’re enormously grateful that this campaign has recognised this critical gap,’ she told the Mail.

Five star: Maria Ponteaux, Megan Wills, Maria Willis, Lisa Smith and Nikki McCrudden applaud their new kit at the Shedfield Lodge care home, near Southampton, yesterday

Special delivery: This Mail Force van brought boxes of much-needed equipment to The Meadow, a care home in Muswell Hill, north London

Suited and booted: Head of care Maria Willis, 32, and Megan Wills, 21, wear protective coveralls

‘But it is an indictment of policy that we have to rely on donations to safeguard our residents and our amazing workforce.’

There was further good news for the care sector, however, following the Government’s decision to exempt all PPE products from VAT for the next three months, a decision worth £100million to the adult care and charitable sectors.

‘We know we’re no longer on our own’ 

By Sam Greenhill for the Daily Mail

A consignment of Mail Force medical masks last night helped lift the ‘daily fear’ for staff at a care home.

The dedicated carers at The Meadow in Muswell Hill, north London, have been terrified of PPE stocks running low as they tend to elderly residents’ needs.

But thanks to a Mail Force delivery, they can now look forward to 9,000 masks and 80 full-body protective coveralls to help keep them safe.

Pictured: Muswell Hill, North London

Andrew White, a director of MHA, the charity which manages the home, said: ‘Getting this PPE is a massive deal for the staff, just to know the stuff is there for them.

‘The care that they give to our residents is amazing. But it is donations like this that allow them to do it.

‘You cannot do it if you’re afraid and in fear every day. The residents pick up on that. This makes life so much easier for them too. You can’t put a price on that.’

The Meadow is a residential and dementia care home with 40 rooms, 16 of which are designated for dementia specialist care. Nestled in well-manicured grounds, the home recently had a £460,000 refurbishment.

MHA is a registered charity which provides care, accommodation and support to more than 18,000 older people across the UK and has 7,000 employees and 5,000 volunteers.

Mr White said: ‘We appreciate whatever the Government is able to give us, but when the PPE supply chains become erratic and we are not guaranteed a supply, that puts a real sense of fear that we might run out.

‘It is absolutely amazing to get 9,000 masks – that is really significant, those masks will probably last about nine weeks.

‘But it is worth much more than that – it is the support that our people have got from you, knowing somebody has gone out of their way to raise funds, source PPE and then give it to them. Just knowing they are not doing this on their own. It’s hugely appreciated.’

Mr White added: ‘It gives the staff assurance that they are protected, because it is very difficult day after day for a member of staff from a home with the virus to go to their own homes knowing that they could spread it up to their families.’

More than 2,000 people a week are dying from Covid-19 in care homes and some experts fear more are dying from the virus outside of hospitals than in them.

The Office for National Statistics, which collates mentions of the disease on death certificates, said earlier this week the toll in care homes had doubled on the previous week.

Mr White said: ‘Quite a lot of our homes are badly affected by the Covid virus. At Meadows we haven’t had any significant breakouts. One of the crucial elements in that is making sure we’ve got PPE available.’

That is, of course, if they can find PPE to buy in the first place, given the severe global shortages that have pushed up prices and emptied shelves everywhere.

Britain’s 15,000 care homes, which look after more than 400,000 elderly residents, have been especially vulnerable to Covid-19, not least because of a lack of virus testing and PPE.

The scale of the problem has been obscured by the fact that, until now, coronavirus deaths have not even been formally recorded in many cases.

There have been numerous reports of severe staff shortages through sickness. At the same time, many GPs refuse to set foot inside homes. Little wonder that so many care workers say they feel abandoned.

That is certainly not the case at Shedfield Lodge where staff numbers are impressively high, thanks in no small part to the support of the local community.

When several members of staff decided it would be safer for the elderly residents if they isolated themselves on site, a local appeal brought an instant supply of caravans.

The lawn at the back of the home is now a cosy camp site with five vehicles wired up to the mains. 

‘We try to keep a happy atmosphere going so that things feel the same for the residents,’ said Maria Willis. 

‘It was a little strange at the start of the outbreak when we started wearing masks but now they are used to it.’

There would have been no masks available starting from this weekend, however, were it not for the efforts of Mail Force.

Now the home also has an emergency supply of coveralls for its ‘outbreak box’ come any sudden burst of infection.

‘We had just enough masks to last us until Sunday,’ explained owner Andrew Geach.

‘I don’t know what we’d have done next.’ Having carefully pre-planned for this situation back in January, when he made two bulk PPE orders, he has since been let down repeatedly by his suppliers.

A £2,000 delivery, scheduled for yesterday, failed to appear.

Mr Geach showed me the email from his regular PPE providers informing him that they were no longer able to stay afloat.

Another supplier has given him a vague promise of more masks in June. 

‘The whole situation is appalling. Everyone seems to be running out of masks,’ he said.

His care home, like most, is private but half of the residents are funded by their local authorities. 

Yet he has been told there is no emergency recourse to local authority supplies, unless he reports a Covid infection – and that is precisely what he is trying to avoid.

‘Of course we are used to paying for things,’ said Mr Geach.

‘The problem comes when there is nothing to buy. Then you really start to worry.’

Here, at least, that worry is over for the moment.

It’s flying high! Donations to Mail Force charity that organised PPE airlift mission reach £4.2million in just two days

By Arthur Martin for the Daily Mail

City grandee Michael Spencer donated £250,000 to the new Mail Force charity yesterday.

The philanthropist and former Tory party treasurer described the campaign to supply frontline staff with protective gear as ‘a hugely important issue’.

His support came as the donations from generous Daily Mail readers soared passed £300,000 in just two days.

More than 7,400 of you have pledged money to the Mail-backed charity which will use the funds to provide NHS staff and care workers with more personal protection equipment.

Generous: Michael Spencer and wife Sarah, who donated £250,000 to the new Mail Force charity yesterday

Contributions from private benefactors and our partners have now reached £3.9million.

It means that a total of £4.2million has been raised to buy crucial equipment to protect staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Spencer, who helped bankroll Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party leadership campaign, said he was delighted to contribute towards Mail Force.

‘Making sure our health workers have the right equipment is a hugely important issue,’ he said.

‘I feel very strongly about the people who are working in the health service on the front line and who are doing their best to minimise the fatalities. They are taking considerable risks themselves to do it. I think it’s only right and proper that we try and help our health workers and minimise the risks that they are facing from their frontline work.

‘So I thought this was a very good cause, a very good project.’

Why the crucial supplies had to come from China 

By James Salmon for the Daily Mail 

Some Daily Mail readers, while applauding the Mail Force airlift, have questioned why the charity has sourced the much-needed equipment from China.

The answer is simply that there was little choice when it comes to procuring a bulk supply of PPE fast.

Scores of British manufacturers have adapted their production lines to churn out gowns, gloves, coveralls, visors, caps and masks instead of luxury cars, clothes and other goods. 

First consignment: PPE being loaded in Shanghai

Despite their valiant efforts, the NHS is still facing a desperate shortage – and demand is high across the world. China is the leading supplier of PPE. Manufacturers there use an army of low-paid workers to mass-produce this type of clothing cheaply, before exporting it.

With a dramatic spike in orders, there have been bottlenecks in supply. However there are plenty of smaller manufacturers and Mail Force was able to team up with Salesforce, the US software giant now one of the charity’s backers.

Its team used their contacts in China to help US hospitals source PPE. Now it is the turn of the UK.

Frustratingly, millions of pieces of PPE that were stockpiled in UK warehouses have been shipped to the rest of Europe. Wholesalers claim they had no choice after their offers of help were ignored by Whitehall.


The 64-year-old is founder and former chief executive of Nex Group, one of the world’s largest inter-dealer brokers, formerly known as ICAP. Mr Spencer, who is married to Sarah, formerly the Marchioness of Milford Haven, has generously donated millions to charities throughout his career.

As well as helping Mail Force, he has been supporting a range of charities which have been struggling to raise funds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: ‘The whole of the virus has been such a tragedy for so many countries and so many people. The implications of this will be quite long-lasting and very sad and tragic in every way.

‘I’m lucky, I haven’t been through it yet, but I know many people who have. Fortunately all of them, with the exception of our Prime Minister, have avoided hospitalisation. It has been a dreadful, dreadful time for this country and for many other countries as well.’

Last year Mr Spencer donated £1million to a Daily Mail campaign which raised funds for a British Normandy Memorial overlooking Gold Beach. The memorial honours the 22,442 sailors, soldiers, airmen and medical staff under British command who were killed in the relentlessly violent 77-day battle which followed the D-Day landings.

Mr Spencer also founded the ICAP Charity Day, an annual event in which royalty and celebrities run trading desks at ICAP.

The broking firm donates the day’s revenue to good causes.

The event, which was launched in 1993, has raised an incredible £149million and has backed more than 2,200 charitable projects. Mr Spencer has said that the ICAP Charity Day is his proudest achievement in business, alongside breaking into the FTSE100.

Yesterday, during the second full day of fundraising, Mail Force received donations from another 3,400 generous readers on its online appeal page.

Echoing the feelings of many, Keith Marshall, who donated £100, wrote: ‘Well done for creating this charity! The work being done by NHS staff is vital in the battle against Covid-19. The selfless acts by medical personnel in putting their lives at risk to help others cannot be over emphasised. They need vital PPE to continue.’

Another reader called Polly, who pledged £500, wrote: ‘Fantastic way to support all NHS workers, we all need to do our bit to help.’

Every donation to Mail Force, no matter how small, will be spent on masks, gowns, and coveralls which NHS and care workers so urgently need. If there is any money left over, the charity will use it to support the NHS and care workers in the best ways it can. So far, more than 100 NHS workers and carers have died with the virus. They include consultants, nurses, cleaners, porters and care assistants.

Fresh supplies of PPE are constantly needed because most protective clothing should be worn only once.

Washing them at temperatures high enough to kill coronavirus weakens their effectiveness.

Care chief’s battle with health bosses over safety advice

By Sophie Borland for the Daily Mail 

Care homes are struggling to source protective clothing because suppliers cannot be reached at weekends and the guidelines keep changing, an industry expert warned last night.

Martin Green, who heads Care England, said some organisations tasked by the Government with delivering stocks were ‘useless’. He also accused health officials of issuing six different versions of advice on PPE over the past few weeks.

And he said a helpline set up by the Government to support care homes in sourcing equipment was of little value.

His remarks coincided with a survey of 231 care providers that found two-thirds were facing difficulties obtaining the necessary levels of PPE.

Martin Green (pictured), who heads Care England, said some organisations tasked by the Government with delivering stocks were ‘useless’

The Independent Care Group, which represents firms in northern England and carried out the poll, said supplies were ‘patchy’ and overpriced.

Two weeks ago, Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised to intervene amid concerns – highlighted by this newspaper – that care home residents were the forgotten victims of the pandemic. 

He vowed to improve the supply of equipment and ensure all residents and staff with symptoms were offered tests. 

But Professor Green, who speaks for the largest representative body in the care industry, said: ‘There are still areas where people are finding it difficult to access PPE.

‘People are really concerned about whether the supplies are consistent. Part of the issue is people are a bit nervous about whether they’ve got enough for a week on Wednesday, say. 

Two weeks ago, Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) promised to intervene amid concerns – highlighted by this newspaper – that care home residents were the forgotten victims of the pandemic

‘We’re at about version six of the guidance from Public Health England which is completely confusing.

‘What we need is literally simple and clear guidance saying what we need to use when somebody is a Covid-19 patient or symptomatic and what is the PPE we need to use for people who are not symptomatic of Covid-19 so we know how to secure the right level of PPE. It’s not rocket science. 

This is an organisation who call themselves Public Health England but what I’ve realised is that they understand acute hospitals and they should be called Acute Hospitals England.’

He described the organisations charged with supplying PPE to care homes, the Local Resilience Forums, as useless and hard to contact. Public Health England insisted its guidance had not been changed six times but pointed out that separate advice may have been issued by the Department of Health and the NHS.

Victory as £100m VAT slashed off medics’ PPE

By Daniel Martin for the Daily Mail 

Care homes were given a huge boost last night after the Chancellor agreed to slash taxes on vital personal protective equipment.

The tax break, which will apply from today until July 31, is worth more than £100million to care homes, businesses and charities.

Rishi Sunak said a zero rate of VAT will apply to sales of PPE such as face masks and gowns to help combat the spread of coronavirus.

It will also help individuals who decide to buy a facemask to protect themselves after they return to work.

Pictured: A tester wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) holds a test swab at a drive through coronavirus testing site at IKEA in Wembley, north London

Many in the care sector have complained about the exorbitant cost of PPE, with some care operators saying they are being charged £12 per face mask compared to the 8p cost before the crisis. Treasury officials said the Government acted as soon as possible to bring the measure into force.

During the Brexit transition period, the UK is bound by European law on VAT which the Treasury said required the UK to charge VAT on the equipment. But the European Commission has indicated support for member states to introduce their own temporary VAT reliefs to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ministers have already removed import duties from PPE to ensure more essential equipment can get to the front line quicker.

The move will particularly benefit care providers, who are often unable to reclaim the 20 per cent VAT they incur on their purchases.

In addition, the Government is providing the NHS with the funding to purchase PPE and has committed to providing extra funding to ensure the NHS has whatever it needs to tackle coronavirus.

National guidance states that staff in hospitals and care homes should wear PPE when they come into contact with those showing symptoms of coronavirus. But many are still warning of shortages of the vital equipment, which they say puts health and care workers at risk of catching and spreading the disease.

Pictured: A medical worker gives a thumbs up to a motorist at a drive-through coronavirus testing centre in London today

The difficulties in securing PPE stocks were highlighted last week when a shipment from Turkey arrived three days late as hospitals ran out of equipment

The move comes two weeks after the National Care Association called on ministers to take action over unsustainable PPE costs for care homes.

Chairman Nadra Ahmed said one provider had paid £8,500 for just one week’s worth of PPE – and said the fact the NHS was taking most of the stocks made the situation worse.

‘To be told at the very beginning of this by our suppliers that all supplies were being requisitioned to the NHS, which we absolutely understand… but what did it do for our sector?’ she said.

‘Absolutely nothing but drive the prices up. My mailbag is absolutely full every single day with members asking us where they can get PPE.’

The difficulties in securing PPE stocks were highlighted last week when a shipment from Turkey arrived three days late as hospitals ran out of equipment.

Care bosses facing severe shortages have had to turn to private companies charging a premium due to ‘unreliable’ Government supplies. MHA, a charitable trust which runs 220 care homes, has had to spend £200,000 on masks at five times the usual price.

Karl Silvester runs Awarding Care, which looks after 170 adults in their own homes in the Black Country area. He contacted a number of suppliers but found a box of gloves which normally sells at £2 to £3 each was priced at £15, while plastic aprons which were typically 2 pence an item were up to £2 a piece.

NHS procurement managers were forced to waste hours of working time ruling out dubious suppliers from the black market, and have accused fraudsters of profiteering that ‘beggars belief’. Healthcare experts said they are being inundated with offers from supposed suppliers ‘trying to make a quick buck’.

Donate… in their memory: Without adequate PPE, these selfless NHS staff died on the front line. Their stories will make you weep – and move you to shield those battling on 

The cancer nurse 

Donald Suelto died after nursing a virus patient while short of personal protective equipment, his family claim.

The 51-year-old, who worked on a chemotherapy ward in Hammersmith, west London, is one of 25 Filipino NHS staff thought to have died of Covid-19. 

Niece Emylene Robertson said: ‘It’s a concern he was facing a patient recovering from coronavirus short of PPE.’

Pictured left: Donald Suelto who died after nursing a virus patient and right: Gareth Roberts, 65, who died after contracting coronavirus

The caring grandad  

A nurse ‘paid the ultimate price’ due to a lack of PPE, a friend has claimed.

Grandfather Gareth Roberts, 65, who died after contracting coronavirus, worked extra shifts to help cover the wards at Llandough Hospital near Penarth in Wales. 

Childhood friend Janette Leonard said: ‘He said he was wearing a pinny, plastic gloves and a paper mask. I am absolutely furious about it. It’s like lambs to the slaughter.’

Mum ‘denied proper kit’

The death of Josiane Ekoli may have been prevented had she been given the right PPE, her family say.

The mother of five from Leeds, who had dedicated herself to the NHS for more than 30 years, died of the virus on April 13.

Her children say the 55-year-old was given only a surgical mask, gloves and apron while treating virus patients. 

Daughter Aalijah said: ‘I don’t want to blame anyone but I feel if the people in charge did their job properly it wouldn’t have turned out the way it did.’ Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We’re doing all we can.’

The death of Josiane Ekoli (left) may have been prevented had she been given the right PPE, her family say (Pictured right: Sara Trollope, who died after bravely continuing to work despite a lack of PPE)

Brave matron kept working

Matron Sara Trollope died after bravely continuing to work despite a lack of PPE, a friend says.

The mother of four was months from retirement at Watford General Hospital after 33 years in the NHS.

But the 51-year-old – who had diabetes and asthma – died of the virus after being let down by a lack of protective kit, the friend said.

Tracy Woods, who set up a fundraising page that has generated more than £15,000, said: ‘Sara completely loved her job. Sadly it was this job that cost her life. She had to work with insufficient PPE and contracted Covid-19.’

Her father Gordon said: ‘I love her dearly and have always been proud of her.’ 

Nurse on a 12-hour shift 

John Alagos, 23, died just hours after treating coronavirus patients without access to PPE.

He told colleagues he was feeling unwell but was told to stay and complete a gruelling 12-hour shift at Watford General Hospital. The nursing assistant, who did not have any underlying conditions, died the following morning on April 3. His mother Gina Gustilo, 49, said her son had returned to their home in the town suffering from a headache and high temperature and turned blue in bed.

Miss Gustilo, an NHS mental health nurse, said colleagues had raised concerns about her son’s PPE. She added: ‘They wear PPE, but not totally protective of the mouth.’

Tracey Carter, chief nurse at the hospital, said staff had the right level of protection.

Apron for protection

Devastated relatives of Thomas Harvey, 57, say he had only ‘gloves and a flimsy apron’ for protection.

The healthcare assistant and grandfather of three, 57, fell ill after helping a patient who later tested positive for Covid-19 at Goodmayes Hospital in Ilford, east London, and died at home on March 29. He had been otherwise healthy.

Paramedics twice refused to take him to hospital, referring his family instead to the NHS 111 helpline.

His daughter Tamira, 19, said: ‘He was let down in so many ways. If he had just had the right equipment it wouldn’t have escalated in the way it did.’

Doctor who warned PM  

Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, 53, died less than three weeks after writing a Facebook post warning Boris Johnson about the lack of PPE.

The consultant urologist at Homerton hospital in east London wrote on March 18: ‘We have to protect ourselves and our families/kids in this global disaster/crisis by using appropriate PPE and remedies.’ He died of coronavirus on April 8 at a hospital in Romford.

On Tuesday, the eldest of Dr Chowdhury’s two sons, Intisar, 18, confronted Health Secretary Matt Hancock on a radio phone-in, asking him if he regretted not taking his father’s concerns ‘seriously enough’. Mr Hancock told him he was ‘really sorry’ about his father’s death.

Dad’s plea for masks  

The death of NHS doctor Peter Tun, 62, would have been avoidable had he been given the right PPE, his son says.

Dr Tun died of Covid-19 on April 13, three weeks after warning superiors it would be ‘too little, too late’ if Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital did not provide vital kit.

He was unable to persuade them to provide his team with surgical masks as there were no confirmed cases on his ward – despite two members self-isolating.

The son of the associate specialist in neurorehabilitation, Michael, said: ‘When a doctor of 40 years’ experience has had to literally beg for surgical masks, and it is denied, something has gone seriously wrong.’

The Royal Berkshire said it had correctly applied NHS-wide guidance on PPE. 


Mail Force Charity has been launched with one aim to help support NHS staff, volunteers and care workers fight back against Covid-1 in the UK.

Mail Force is a separate charity established and supported by the Daily Mail and General Trust. 

The money raised will fund essential equipment required by the NHS and care workers. 

This equipment is vital in protecting the heroic staff whilst they perform their fantastic work in helping the UK overcome this pandemic.

If we raise more money than is needed for vital Covid-1 equipment, we will apply all funds to support the work of the NHS in other ways.

Click the button below to make a donation:

If the button is not visible, click here 

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