It was welcome news when the Government announced that lockdown was lifting for many people, as they anticipated being able to return to a more recognisable lifestyle, with fewer restrictions. After all, who didn’t want to be able to meet up with friends, go to the theatre, cinema, shopping, possibly even have a meal out and enjoy a drink.
For some Care Homes however, the announcement raised anxiety levels, as families reasonably expected that the lifting of general restrictions would automatically spill over into the care sector and open visiting would resume.
Care Homes have fought a long and hard battle against Covid-19 infections, usually very successfully, through a combination of rigorous infection control processes, reduced visiting, vaccination of residents and staff and where a person is found to have Covid-19 a period of internal lockdown to protect others. Some people have found the necessary precautions difficult, whilst others have welcomed the efforts of everyone to keep them safe.
Residents are beginning to venture out into the community again but are naturally very cautious. They are moving from an environment in which nearly all fellow residents are vaccinated to areas in which the potential for infection is increased and harder to control. Keeping residents safe remains a key priority for all registered providers and a collaborative approach between families, providers and residents is required.
Although a huge rise in the number of visitors was anticipated, in reality for many care homes, numbers have remained stable as families have adapted to making video calls and using the power of social media to keep in touch. It has been encouraging to observe that visitors generally adhere to the still very necessary infection control processes that care homes deploy, which include the wearing of masks, aprons and gloves, Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) for each visit, temperature checks etc. The staff in care homes have been fundamental to ensuring compliance with all requirements and should be commended for their unremitting efforts.
The recently mandated compulsory vaccination of staff working in care homes has been contentious, as it does not apply to all people working in health care. For example, staff working in NHS services are not currently required to have received both Covid-19 vaccinations before November 2021. For staff working in care homes, ‘No Jab-No job’ is a grim reality, and the role of care home managers has been instrumental in improving vaccinations rates to avoid the need to dismiss staff.
We have been pleased to work with providers in achieving both resident and staff vaccination rates of 99% or higher, minimising the risk of infection. Whilst care homes welcome any initiative to protect residents and staff, the inequitable position with the NHS has created a real feeling of us and them, which at such a critical time is neither helpful or desirable. Regrettably there is still a long way to go to having a truly integrated healthcare system.