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.
We have reopened our home to visitors but this is on a strict appointment-only basis. Currently, only very close relatives (apart from under 18s) can visit, one at a time, and once a week in most cases. Visitors must wear full PPE and observe social distancing while they are with their loved one. Residents can also stay in touch with other relatives via phone and video calling (using Skype, Google Hangout, WhatsApp or Facetime (if you have it), although you will also need to arrange a convenient day and time with the home beforehand, as the number of tablets is limited.
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.
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 are now acting in accordance with the government’s recent decree, that all care home staff must be tested weekly and residents tested monthly using the government’s own tests. In addition, 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. At the beginning of the pandemic, we suspended visits by outside entertainers and fitness instructors. Since the lockdown was eased, where it is safe to do so and the weather is fine, we have welcomed entertainers into our garden, maintaining strict social distancing, although we are not yet allowing them inside the home itself. Any resumption will be in accordance with government and PHE advice. Trips outside the home are still also suspended but we have been continuing to offer activities, such as arts and crafts, cake decorating, bingo and puzzles, that are normally organised in-house. We have also worked hard to make festivities such as Easter, VE Day and Father’s Day particularly special for our residents, despite the lockdown and restrictions on visiting.
The NHS has suspended all non-urgent operations until further notice and some routine hospital appointments have been rescheduled. We are in regular contact with health professionals and continue to monitor the situation carefully.
After a period of suspension, we are now taking in new admissions, but we must follow a specific 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 within government and Public Health England guidelines.
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 started to make careful preparations for how to run our business while protecting residents and staff when the first cases of COVID-19 appeared here in the UK in February. The world’s collective knowledge about the disease is much greater now and our own preparations have evolved as a result. Our priorities are to ensure that we continue to have ample supplies of hygiene equipment and PPE, to facilitate the government’s testing initiative (ensuring weekly tests for staff and monthly testing for residents), to ensure that our infection controls and hygiene protocols continue to be robust, to support our staff with training and counselling (where necessary) and continue to provide clear and timely communications to residents, relatives, staff, health professionals, the government and regulatory authorities.
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