Message to relatives from our Managing Director and CEO
Re: Caring Homes and the UK Coronavirus Outbreak – Update
As we write to you today, we would like to firstly, take the opportunity to thank you for the support shown to our care homes over the past few weeks. We have seen evidence and feel that we are turning a corner and are now beginning to work towards a new normal, and so, we want to update you on where we are with enabling you to visit your loved ones and share with you a number of key steps we have undertaken to ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of our residents and colleagues.
We know how important it is to you to be able to visit, and physically see how your loved one is, and we know that many of you are missing this immensely. Please be reassured that we are working hard with our Homes and Public Health bodies and Governments, to see how we can balance this with the safety of our residents, as well as ensuring our colleagues are protected as much as possible.
We are conscious of changes to Government Guidance relation to the general public regarding social isolation but note there is no change in the guidance for visiting Care Homes as yet. We are however encouraged by communications from Public Health officials over the last few days that suggest Government guidance specific to Care Home visits is imminent. We hope that the new guidance will detail how visits can be conducted safely in a Care Home setting. In readiness for the new guidance, we have reviewed how we might apply a phased approach that safely enables you to visit your loved one and we will update you on this matter as soon as we can. We continue to attempt to align our policies with Government guidelines and this is why me must take note of what the Government advises.
It is important to note in relation to visits that due to the high risk of Covid-19 and the affect it can have particularly on persons who are elderly or persons who have underlying conditions, any visits will need to happen in a controlled and organised manner and keep in mind three key principles;
• The safety of residents, their visitors, and colleagues
• The Shielding of our most vulnerable residents;
• Minimising the risk of infection
There are a number of additional measures that will necessarily need to be taken to ensure safe visits. We hope that you will understand that what remains at the forefront of our minds when lifting any restrictions will be the protection of our residents and colleagues so any changes to existing protocols will need to be guided by appropriate advice and implemented slowly and safely.
Below are the actions we have taken since last writing to reduce the risk of infection and transmission within our care homes are detailed below and reflect the latest guidance and advice published by the UK Government, devolved Governments and Public Health (England) and Health Protection Scotland.
We are pleased to say that we have reached 99% in our Whole Home Testing Programme, in England, with the last remaining Homes in Scotland to follow this week. Having been at the forefront of testing in our Homes this now puts us in the fortunate position of knowing the Covid-19 status of all residents and colleagues, whether symptomatic or not. This is a huge step forward and will go a long way to helping us protect our residents and colleagues as we progress forward. Of course, you will recall we pushed for this and wished this was available much earlier but know that we did our very best and are leading most of the sector in this.
This allows us to identify and isolate immediately those with a positive test result which, as we have mentioned before, is critical in enabling us to overcome this pandemic and the ongoing impact on our residents and colleagues.
Our daily checks of colleagues’ healthcare status have increased in order to give us further reassurance. In recent weeks we have introduced Oximeter tests alongside temperature checks for residents and colleagues, taking on board clinical guidance that suggests that a reduction in oxygen levels alongside a rise in temperature may provide an alert to the virus even when other symptoms are not evident. We are doing all we can to manage the spread of the virus throughout our Homes and will continue to take advice and guidance on how best to prevent and manage transmission within our Homes.
With the greatly improved testing capacity for Key workers we have further enhanced protection by ensuring screening processes for colleagues returning to work and those commencing employment with us a by ensuring they provide a negative test prior to commencing work with us. We are also applying this same requirement to agency workers and have secured written undertakings from agencies to provide dedicated agency workers who are able to provide a negative test result prior to entering our Care Homes.
Testing residents and colleagues once is helpful, but the prevention of future outbreaks requires a sustained testing programme, with colleagues and residents being tested on a frequent basis. We are actively lobbying for this and the antibody tests and will keep you informed of progress.
We have throughout this pandemic implemented Government and Health Guidance promptly within our Homes and have often taken additional measures to enhance safety. We have ensured at all times that we have sufficient levels of PPE across all Homes by proactively sourcing and securing this for a number of months ahead. Our colleagues are trained and regularly updated on new guidance in infection control and the wearing of PPE and we continue to provide further training and e-learning for our colleagues to ensure they are able to meet resident needs in a safe, professional and appropriate manner.
As you may appreciate this is most difficult for our residents living with dementia, and we have implemented new guidelines, on how to help our residents living with dementia recognise colleagues when they are wearing masks, such as wearing photos on PPE to help with recognition and talking through why people are wearing PPE.
Coupled with this, we have also ensured a range of activities for residents whilst at the same time ensuring guidelines are adhered to. We have developed monthly wellbeing programmes for all residents which support them one to one, in isolation and in a socially distanced group setting. Using these programmes our colleagues have introduced some extremely innovative ways in which to support resident’s health and wellbeing and keep them connected with relatives. Technology too has played its part with the introduction of additional smart TV’s and mobile devices into Homes, enabling residents to stay in touch and enjoy a vast array of interactive media, entertainment and keep fit sessions.
If you have followed your Homes Facebook page and or Caring Homes’ Facebook page you will have, no doubt, seen the variety of events and activities all tailored around residents’ interests, wishes and abilities both indoors and outdoors. With Caring Homes’ Wellbeing Day coming up later this month we are sure there will be lots of activity amongst residents and colleagues as they prepare.
We know that Skype, Facebook and phone calls cannot replace the joy of being with your loved ones but be assured that we are doing all we can at this time to make staying touch as easy as possible. Please do maintain your contact with your loved ones and the Home and by all means do not hesitate to pick up the phone and speak to the Manager should you have any worries.
Since the outbreak our Steering Group has continuously monitored all Government, Public Health and devolved Government guidance and advice adjusting our Company protocols and guidance and ensuring that we remain at all times robust, meeting, and in many key areas exceeding, guidance from Government. It is this attention to detail and commitment to maintaining the safety of our residents and colleagues that will see us continue to implement some of the most stringent policies of any Care Provider for the admission and health screening of potential residents to our Homes.
We continue to not admit anyone with a positive test result for Covid-19 or if suspected of having Covid-19 symptoms and we insist that any potential admission has been swabbed and gained a negative result for Covid-19 as close to potential admission date as possible. All potential admissions also have a full health screening assessment undertaken in order to gain further insight into possible Covid-19 status and undergo isolation for fourteen days following admission as is recommended in Government Guidance.
The pressure to admit patients from Hospitals without such assurances was unrelenting in the early stages of the Pandemic but this has now declined and we want to assure you that we remain determined in our present stance of not accepting any resident who has not been swabbed negatively for Covid-19. Furthermore, we will not admit any resident whose swab was taken a lengthy period of time prior to their discharge or admission date.
We will continue to keep you updated on progress and should there be a change in the Covid-19 status in your loved one or there is an outbreak of Covid-19 at a Home, we will ensure you are informed immediately.
We are ensuring that the care that we give is maintained to the standard that we all expect. As we write our internal audit teams are not visiting Homes, and neither are the care regulators at this time. We have, however, developed a robust quality assurance system that our Managers are supporting, and this includes infection control monitoring and a range of other key care metrics. Alongside this we are still enabling resident meetings, socially distanced of course, to ensure that the residents are heard and can feedback how they are feeling.
We have been in frequent communication with our Care Regulators throughout the pandemic to inform them of the steps we are taking and have received very positive feedback regarding our robust approach and response to the risks and challenges posed by the virus.
As we know from your many compliments to our teams, you are incredibly appreciative and supportive of the great work they are doing every day. We would like to thank you for your continued support of our colleagues and your kindness, generosity and deeds. It means a huge amount to all of our teams as they continue to protect our loved ones and each other with professionalism, compassion and a commitment that does not diminish.
Please know that we constantly share these with our teams, who have been outstanding in their commitment to delivering the best possible care. Whilst there is much sadness with the loss of loved ones, we are focused on laying out the new normal for our residents, colleagues, and you.
Our priority continues to be the support and protection of our residents and colleagues, to support you. Please don’t hesitate to contact your Home Manager with your queries and concerns, or your gratitude and thanks, we know they will do their best to respond as quickly as they can.
On behalf of all of us at Caring Homes, we hope you continue to stay safe and well.