Where residents have developed symptoms and tested positive for the virus, we have cared for them following government and Public Health England guidelines. We have also informed their close family first and then written personally to relatives of all the residents in the home. We have taken the threat posed by COVID-19 to our residents’ health and wellbeing very seriously, seeking to minimise the risk of infection as much as possible. Our staff are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) wherever necessary (and we have ample supplies within the home) and we are testing residents and staff who display symptoms.
The government has imposed a total national lockdown until mid-February. Unfortunately, this means that our home must remain closed to all visitors (unless your relative is at end of life) until the government advises that it is safe to reopen.
We will be in touch with you if we believe that your relative is nearing the end of his or her life. We will then arrange for you to visit your relative, but this will be by arrangement only as you will not be able to visit the home without an appointment.
We will continue supporting residents to stay in touch with their relatives via phone or video calling. If your relative does not have their own mobile phone, we have tablets in the home for their use (following strict hygiene protocols). Because the number of tablets is limited can you please call the home to arrange a convenient day and time to speak to your relative. We will also give regular wellbeing updates by phone to the relatives of residents who are unable to make or receive calls.
Residents and staff in some of our homes have already been vaccinated, and the vaccine is currently being rolled out across the rest of our homes. We expect that most of our residents and staff will be fully protected from the virus by the end of February. We are also aware that some people cannot have the vaccination, including those with severe allergies, those on certain medications and women who are pregnant or hoping to start a family in the immediate future. We will take particular care to protect people in these categories from contracting the virus.
Even after a full course of the vaccine there is a small chance that someone might still contract the virus, although the illness should be less severe. We hope that once all our residents and staff are vaccinated, the chances of an outbreak in our home will be greatly reduced. The vaccine is an encouraging step forward in our fight against Covid-19, but it is vital that we support it via our usual hygiene routines, such as social distancing and regular, thorough hand washing. Staff will wear personal protective equipment at all times, and we will continue our rigorous hygiene and infection control measures to keep everyone safe.
As a matter of course, we maintain good stocks of cleaning and care home products, as well as food supplies, and are in daily touch with our key suppliers. These include Caterplus (which provides in-house catering services) and Gompels (which sells cleaning and care home items) and all have robust contingency plans in place. There are also strategies to source alternative products, if required.
At all times we will endeavour to staff the homes to the best of our ability and appropriately, notwithstanding the COVID-19 coronavirus. If any member of staff becomes ill they will self-isolate and recover at home. They will be tested for the virus before returning to work. If necessary, we will source additional temporary staff (risk assessing them to ensure that they are virus-free) and follow our strict cleaning protocols and no non-medical visitor policy. We will also keep in close contact with our local health protection team (part of Public Health England) and follow their advice/government guidelines. Our aim, as always, is to minimise any impact on residents.
If we suspect that a resident has the virus (whether or not they display symptoms) we will immediately isolate and test them for the virus. If they test positive we will nurse them in isolation for at least 10 days pending a re-test. Our priorities are to care for the resident concerned and protect other residents and their relatives from contracting the illness. In this case, we may have to suspend all visits to the home until the person tests negative.
Our staff are wearing masks and observing social distancing with residents, wherever possible, in accordance with government guidelines. Because we were proactive in sourcing PPE, we have sufficient supplies within the home and access to additional supplies if required. We are confident that all our protective measures will help to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing under the current circumstances.
We purchased our own testing kits and regularly test our residents and staff to ensure that we minimise any future risk. We also test care home staff twice a week and residents each week using the government’s tests. Staff who have been self-isolating are tested prior to returning to work, as is anyone showing symptoms.
We have strict cleaning protocols in place at all times, and these are subject to regulatory and statutory requirements. However, we have issued extra guidance for staff and have already increased the frequency of the cleaning of core communal areas including doors, door handles, handrails, bathrooms, dining tables and chairs and kitchen facilities.
We will continue to deal with all waste in the usual manner. Should any resident be suspected of having the virus, we will remove waste in accordance with advice from PHE. We seek at all times to minimise the risk of transmission to other residents and staff.
We will continue to work closely with our local doctors and NHS professionals, and be guided by their expertise. We will ensure that all residents have contact with a GP as and when required.
A varied programme of activities is essential for our residents’ health and wellbeing. However, these are extraordinary times and residents must be protected as much as possible from infection by COVID-19. We have suspended visits by outside entertainers and fitness instructors until further notice. Any resumption at a later date will be in accordance with government and PHE advice. Although trips out have also been suspended, we are continuing to offer activities, such as arts and crafts, cake decorating, bingo and puzzles, that are normally organised in-house.
The NHS is resuming some non-urgent operations and rescheduling routine hospital appointments that were previously postponed. We are in regular contact with health professionals and continue to monitor the situation carefully.
We are accepting new admissions for all our homes following a specific and robust process that minimises the risk of infection to all newcomers, as well as existing residents and staff. This involves testing for Covid-19 before arrival – only accepting someone if they test negative – and caring for them in isolation until they are re-tested after 10 days to ensure, once again, that they do not have the virus. As ever, we are working in accordance with government and Public Health England guidelines. If they have not yet had the vaccination and are able to have this, we will administer it with their consent and/or that of their relative/Attorney, where applicable.
We acknowledge that all our residents are vulnerable and we work hard to minimise the risk to them of COVID-19. As far as staff are concerned and based on early data concerning the susceptibility of BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) people to COVID-19, our HR team wrote a new policy specifically for staff who fall into this category. As well as many other areas, the policy covers access to testing, PPE, access to support and counselling services and issues relating to time off for shielding and statutory sick pay.
We are confident that we are well prepared. We have ample supplies of hygiene equipment and PPE, and swab residents on a weekly basis and staff twice a week to facilitate the government’s testing initiative. We are rolling out the vaccine to our residents and staff. We also operate under clear and robust infection controls and hygiene protocols and support staff with training and counselling (where necessary). We also continue to provide clear and timely communications to residents, relatives, staff, health professionals, the government and regulatory authorities.
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