BOURNEMOUTH East MP Tobias Ellwood visited a Dorset care home and volunteered his services to the staff.

Meeting the care team at Encore Care Homes' Fairmile Grange in Christchurch, Mr Ellwood was given an insight into the challenges that face the local care sector during the lockdown.

Encore chief executive Rachel Dryden invited the Conservative MP to visit the home after he discussed the issue of personal protective equipment supplies to care homes on television.

Mr Ellwood participated in a training session to correctly ‘don and doff’ PPE before meeting residents in the gardens for a socially-distanced afternoon tea.

He said: “A huge thank you to Encore Care Homes - Fairmile Grange for allowing me to learn first-hand about the challenges they and other care homes are currently facing and appreciate the hard work and commitment of all the key workers who continue to provide such high quality care at this difficult time.

"It’s very clear more must still be done to support all care homes across the country – given how vulnerable the elderly population is to COVID-19.”

While in the gardens, Mr Ellwood joined in the 96th birthday celebrations for resident and Second World War veteran Colin West, as well as listening to the experiences of fellow residents and carers.

The residential, nursing and dementia care home is based in the grounds of Christchurch Hospital off Fairmile Road and can accommodate 80 residents.

Mr Ellwood added: “It was a particular pleasure to say hello to World War Two veteran Colin West on his 96th birthday. I look forward to taking him to the Veterans’ Breakfast Club when it is eventually safe to do so.”

Cecilia Thomson, Fairmile Grange home manager, said: “We welcomed Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood to Fairmile Grange and gave him the opportunity to experience life in the care home.

"We provide all visitors with a warm welcome and were thrilled that Mr Ellwood took such an active role participating in PPE training and spending time with our residents in the gardens.

"Our incredible staff range from carers, housekeeping to catering. They have been doing a fantastic job and we really do appreciate their dedication to our residents in these challenging times.”

In recent weeks, Ms Dryden has also made newspaper headlines by successfully championing better local access to coronavirus testing for the team and residents.

Encore Care Homes have also led the way in the procurement and provision of PPE equipment by sharing their advice and experience with government departments and colleagues in the care sector.

Ms Dryden said: “We have an immense sense of pride working in the social care sector and the privilege of looking after our residents.

"Mr Ellwood’s visit was a welcome gesture of solidarity and support in the community.

"We are currently recruiting additional staff on a full, part-time and voluntary basis for what has never been a more vital and rewarding career. As an organisation we are fully committed to ensuring that every team member is fully supported and we provide access to a range of financial and wellbeing benefits.”