Over the last few months our teams have been working incredibly hard to reduce the impact of the coronavirus in our homes.
Despite our best efforts, some of our care homes have felt a significant impact, particularly when the communities in which they operate have seen a high number of cases. Very sadly, many residents in our homes have passed away. First and foremost, we would like to offer our condolences to the friends and families who are mourning loved ones who have passed away.
While we are still caring for a number of very poorly people in some homes, we are seeing some positive signs that the worst is hopefully behind us. We now have significantly more people who have recovered from the virus than are still showing symptoms. Thanks to your support around the stringent restrictions we have had in place and the incredible work of our care home teams, the number of new cases being reported has been dramatically reduced.
While it is difficult in this context to start to think ahead, we are also aware that many relatives have not seen their loved ones for several months and are desperate to understand when we will be opening our doors to visitors again. We are closely monitoring Government guidance on a daily basis and will continue to adhere to any lockdown measures as they apply to local communities or to care homes specifically. However, we are also responsible for the safety and wellbeing of some extremely vulnerable residents, so at times we may feel that additional measures may be warranted.
Relative visits to our homes
While we appreciate the importance of family visits, our first priority must remain the safety of residents, colleagues and visitors in our homes. We are very mindful of suggestions that there may be a second wave of infection as lockdown restrictions are loosened and want to do all we can to minimise this risk in our homes.
We are exploring options for easing restrictions to enable relatives or close friends to visit with their loved ones in ways that adhere to current Government guidance and protect both visitors, residents and staff teams.
As a first stage, we are putting procedures in place to open up those homes that have been free from infection for more than 14 days to enable outdoor visits to take place. When your home falls into this category, you will be advised directly of the approach taken by your home. Please keep in mind that until advised by your home manager, current visitor restrictions will remain in place.
To ensure your safety, we need to put a number of additional measures in place to ensure these outdoor visits take place safely. We recognise that many of these will be difficult for families who have not seen their loved one for some time, but we believe they are vital in protecting your loved ones:
- Visits will need to be pre-booked to enable us to manage the safety of residents and their visitors by limiting the volume of people through the home at any one time, as well as support additional cleaning between visits
- Visits will be limited to 30 minutes duration
- Only two family members will be allowed per visit and children will not be allowed at this point in time
- You will be asked some health screening questions at the start of your visit, will be asked to wash your hands or use the sanitising gel provided and will have your temperature taken. If you are showing any symptoms which could indicate coronavirus, please do not travel to the care home as we will need to refuse entry. As you will be aware, these symptoms include a raised temperature, a new and persistent cough, a loss of taste or smell and a generally feeling of being lethargic and unwell.
- Visitors will be required to wear a face mask for the duration of their visit. Masks can be provided if you are unable to bring your own.
- Social distancing measures will be remain in effect, which means a no touch approach during visits. This extends to hugging, hand-holding or kissing.
- Visitors will not be able to use facilities such as coffee shops and toilets (unless for emergencies), however refreshments will be provided by care home colleagues
Full details of how your visit will be managed will be provided by the home manager as each home is ready to accept visitors
Other visitors to our homes
As you may be aware, the restrictions to our homes have applied not just to relatives and friends, but to all non-essential visitors. This has included members of our internal governance, facilities management and leadership team. While we felt this was an important step to take in terms of reducing the risk of infection, we are very aware that these visits are an important part of ensuring the health and safety of residents and monitoring the quality of our care.
Please rest assured that all visitors will be briefed on the strictest infection control procedures and will be subject to many of the same control measures outlined for friends and family.
Many of our homes have had restrictions on new admissions in place over the past few months. In order to protect the future sustainability of our business, it is important that we continue to admit people whose care needs can no longer be met at home or in hospital. You may start to see some advertising advising that our care homes are accepting new admissions but please rest assured that we are only admitting new residents where it is safe to do so and are putting every precaution in place to protect both current and future residents.
We will have a number of infection control protocols to ensure we reduce the risk of new infections. These will include:
Requiring a COVID-19 clear test as well as a full health history from any new resident that is discharged from hospital or another care setting. Where tests are not available, we will put additional measures in place to reduce possible risks.
Caring for any new resident in isolation for fourteen days, with the full use of PPE and twice daily health checks
We have been receiving a number of questions about the testing programmes that are mentioned regularly in the media. Since the beginning of May, we have seen an increasing momentum behind the testing programme with many homes now able to access whole home testing for both residents and colleagues. While these whole home tests provide a very helpful understanding of the status of a home, they are a moment in time picture and we are actively working with our public sector partners to ensure these whole home tests become part of a rolling programme.
Despite the Government’s assertions that all care home residents and staff now have access to regular testing, this is sadly not the case across all of our homes. We are seeing significant regional variations to both the scale and efficiency of testing, with some homes still to receive promised tests and others waiting several weeks for results, rendering them out of date before they are received. While the testing programme is not perfect, it is one of the most important tools we have to protect those living and working in our homes in the coming months and we are continuing to lobby for more and better testing where needed.
Finally, we would like to say a very public thank you to our colleagues who have worked tirelessly in the last few months to provide exceptional levels of care under challenging circumstances. We are exceptionally grateful for the commitment and dedication of our teams, particularly when many of them are mourning the loss of residents who had become very close friends.
We would also like to thank the families and local communities that have supported our homes over the last few months. Many of our homes have received cards, gifts and other messages of support which have been invaluable in motivating our teams to continue working through these challenging times. Your kindness and generosity has been greatly appreciated.