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A Bristol NHS trust is paying to put up frontline workers in hotels so they can self-isolate, while communities offer their support.

“I cry every night. I am scared in my own room and will have nowhere to live in a few days.”

Adriana Hoban works for local NHS commissioners and as a carer for elderly people in south Bristol on weekends. Because she works in the NHS, she has been served notice from her landlord, who has health risks and is worried about getting infected.

Adriana lives with her landlord as a lodger, meaning the government’s restrictions on evictions do not apply to her. She has been working from home but said her landlord has now asked her not to use the kitchen. Adriana hasn’t had any symptoms and has offered to wear protective gloves when using communal areas, but now has just a few weeks to find somewhere to live.

With the support of community union ACORN, Adriana has asked her landlord to reconsider, or at least for the notice period to be extended, but the landlord has refused to budge.

“I feel alone as I cannot tell my family what nightmare I am into,” she told the Cable. “I am desperate. Anxiety and depression are right here. I feel drained and I need to be strong for my patients.”

So far she has struggled to find new housing, as landlords rule her out because of her job. “People need to find out how I am being punished because I serve this country and I help others, putting my life at risk.”

Adriana is one of a number of NHS staff in Bristol who are struggling to find places to live, as they are deciding to stay away from vulnerable family members or even being evicted by landlords. In response to a need that is set to grow, North Bristol NHS Trust has been offering to pay for hotel rooms for NHS staff needing to self-isolate. 

‘I can’t believe people’s generosity’

As well as official actions, there has also been a strong community response with lots of offers of accommodation. The Bristol paramedic Joseph Hoar who made national news last week for being evicted has now found somewhere to stay.

There have been multiple offers of free accommodation for NHS workers, while others have extended similar offers to all key workers. A Facebook group with more than 200 members has formed to help NHS staff and other key workers find places to stay.

“I have found somewhere – so relieved to not be sofa surfing”

A Bristol nurse posted on Bristol Community Care – Covid-19 Mutual Aid Facebook group asking for a place to stay because she had to move out of her shared house due to concerns from her landlady. 

When numerous people offered help and she eventually found somewhere, she posted. “Thank you so so much to everyone for your kind words and offers of support. I’ve always had faith in humanity, but have honestly been astounded by people’s kindness and mutual support during this difficult time. I have a place sorted for us now.”

Some staff have been forced to make difficult decisions, having to balance being able to carry on going to work as normal while protecting vulnerable family members.

An admin worker at Southmead Hospital was looking for somewhere to stay to protect her grandmother. “It’s obviously brought about so much uncertainty but I couldn’t live with myself if she became symptomatic,” she told the Cable. 

“I have found somewhere – so relieved to not be sofa surfing. I can’t believe people’s generosity in this time.”

Keeping frontline workers safe

More access to testing could ease uncertainty and anxiety about whether NHS workers are at risk of infecting others 

Last week, Professor Yvonne Doyle, the medical director of Public Health England, said millions of 15-minute home tests, which should be available in the next few weeks, would be “critical to understand what is going on and allow people to return to work”. However, the government was accused of putting lives at risk by not increasing testing as promised, after fewer than 5,000 people were tested on Saturday.

In the last week, the first deaths of two doctors have increased the pressure on the government to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing to keep frontline workers safe. This came after the chair of the Doctor’s Association told the Guardian that due to the widespread lack of PPE, some doctors were considering quitting the profession.

Doctors have told The Independent they have been gagged from speaking out about shortages of protective equipment – with some claiming managers had threatened their careers.

A group of doctors has even set up a crowdfunder to pay for more PPE to protect healthcare workers caring for coronavirus patients. In Bristol, there have been a number of callouts from individuals for the public to donate any PPE they might have.

On housing NHS workers, Bristol City Council said: “In general, the council are currently working with the NHS to identify what they are doing to support staff to self-isolate. The NHS are in the best position to identify the provision for their workforce and we are aware that a number of hotels and others have already reached out to key workers. We’d encourage NHS workers to approach their management to take advantage of this.

“We’ll continue to work with partners where we can to identify accommodation solutions for key workers in need. The housing team’s priority at present is finding accommodation for those we owe a statutory duty to, particularly those with underlying health conditions.”

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust and North Bristol NHS Trust did not respond to requests for comment.

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