There has never been a more unprecedented time for the UK’s care sector. We are living and working through challenging circumstances and our team is committed to providing the best quality of care to all residents. To support them, their families and staff during this period of uncertainty with coronavirus COVID-19, we have put in place a number of measures.
We understand this is a worrying time for individuals and friends and families coming into health and care services and we want to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to ensure that residents and staff are as safe as possible.
Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our residents and the genuinely remarkable staff who have kept them safe over recent months.
We hope the following information will provide answers to some of the questions which you might have at this difficult time.
Have staff and residents received their vaccination?
Our homes have been undergoing a vigorous vaccination programme over recent weeks with most staff and residents at all homes now having received protection from the virus, which is very good news.
We are pleased with the numbers of staff taking up the offer of a vaccination with most homes having in excess of 80% coverage.
Even though most staff have been vaccinated, they continue to always wear appropriate PPE and a stringent testing programme remains in place. Staff are tested twice a week using Lateral Flow Tests and once a week they receive a Polymerase Chain Reaction test (PCR). Residents also undergo testing every 28 days in line with care sector guidance.
Although vaccination is not compulsory, we have moved to impose a duty on any new staff joining our organisation and all new recruits in a client facing (home-based) role are now expected to have proof of vaccination or commit to having a vaccination before starting work with us. Exemptions will be made for individuals who are unable to receive the vaccination due to clear medical reasons.
Can I visit a loved one staying in one of your homes?
From March 8, our homes began receiving visitors again with due consideration of the new Government guidance.
Currently, and in line with the new guidance, all visits to our homes are being restricted to one designated visitor per person and visits will be of 30 minutes and must be booked in advance with the relevant home.
All those entering our homes will be asked to sign our newly revised visitors' agreement and we will be taking people’s temperature. There is also a requirement for all visitors to wear the appropriate PPE which will be supplied by the home.
We will not require proof of vaccination for a visit to take place.
Visits will take place behind a screen within a designated area of our homes. Unfortunately, we are not allowing any close contact between residents and their loved ones, including hand holding, as we are taking a slow and cautious approach to lifting restrictions.
These procedures will remain in place until March 31st and will then be reviewed. It is hoped at this stage we will be able to relax the restrictions around hand holding but only if we are assured it does not present a significant risk to residents and staff.
As always, we continue to support families who wish to be with their relatives during end-of-life care, or in other exceptional circumstances, by implementing additional infection control measures.
What is an essential care giver and will my relative be able to have one?
New guidance issued by the Government has highlighted that in ‘exceptional circumstances’ care homes can support residents and their families with identifying an essential care giver. This person might be someone that is able to provide specific physical or emotional support to a resident. For example, a resident’s refusal to eat unless they are in the company of a partner or loved one may present a real risk of physical deterioration. This support will be part of the formal care plan agreed with the resident and loved one.
In such circumstances, the essential care giver, is deemed to play a central role in delivering care and support alongside professional carers and as such guidance allows for these people to spend more time in the home and have closer contact with the person they are supporting. At Coverage Care we will be working closely with residents and their families to help identify where there may be a need for an essential care giver role, particularly when it comes to residents who are new to the home. We believe this will help the settling-in process for residents who have very specific needs. We hope it will also reduce some of the anxiety felt by family members as they help transition their loved one into a new care environment.
It is likely that those people identified as an essential care giver will be spending more time in our homes and will also have closer contact with residents therefore, we will be asking them to take further steps to reduce the risk of infection to themselves, other residents and staff. This will include taking a rapid Lateral Flow Test before each visit to a home, a weekly PCR test and agree to more regular testing if necessary.
What is considered an 'exceptional circumstance' when homes are closed to non-essential visitors?
The Director of Public Health in Telford and Shropshire has directed all care homes across the county to close to non-essential visitors. In exceptional circumstances a relative may still be able to visit a loved one in our homes but in accordance with our policies. The Director of Public Health considers that exceptional circumstance status would be given in the following situations:
- End of life care
- Where having no visitor will significantly negatively impact the wellbeing of the person due to Dementia, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s
- Where there is a medical / clinical need for a visiting professional
- An exceptional personal situation such as a close family bereavement where it’s not appropriate to make contact virtually
These exceptions are designed to support the wellbeing of people in critical need.
What is a ‘designated’ visitor?
The idea of a "constant" visitor is to have the same one named person able to make visitors to a home resident and no-one else. This has not been our favoured approach, although we will have to implement such a system if it is required by the authorities.
At the moment the public health authorities are not requiring a constant visitor approach.
What is your approach to Test and Trace?
We are obliged to ask for contact details of all visitors to our home, this is to assist the NHS Test and Trace service for tracing close recent contacts of anyone testing positive for coronavirus. It will be given to NHS Test and Trace on request in the event that it is required for contact tracing purposes. It will not be used for any other purpose, and will be destroyed after 28 days.Regrettably we will not be able to allow visitation without the above consent.
How will you protect care home residents against the risk of asymptomatic infected visitors bringing the disease into the home?
We are using thermal imaging cameras, a health questionnaire and visitors will be asked to wear a mask. Regular cleaning of designated visitor spaces will also take place.
Are you sure that the thermal imaging cameras will not provide a false sense of security to visitors and staff, given that they cannot detect all infections?
The cameras are only one measure which we are using and they will enable us to monitor visitor temperatures in a much less invasive way.
How will you ensure that visitors and residents observe social distancing during visits? Will visits be supervised?
Prior to the cessation of non-essential visits, it was our policy not to supervise visits. There is a suggestion that this may be a requirement in the future. We are hopeful that this can be avoided in which case we would expect visitors to sign an agreement which confirms that they will act responsibly in the best interests of safety for residents and staff. Visits will be terminated if individuals do not conform to the agreement.
Will visitors be asked to wear masks to reduce the chance of transmission of the virus to staff and residents?
Yes, this forms one of the conditions listed in the visitor agreement.
Will the visiting space be disinfected after each appointment?
The Government currently has strict rules against indoor visits of friends and family in different households, due to the virus spreading much more easily in indoor environments. If visits are to resume, have you considered allowing them only in sunny weather in an outdoor environment, where it would be harder for the virus to spread?
We will, when we can, be facilitating visits in the garden but feel it is only fair to have an indoor alternative option for the inevitable poor weather conditions.
If my relative is receiving end of life care in a home can I still visit?
We understand that friends and family of those receiving end of life care will want to say farewell and we will work with families to ensure this can happen. The Directors of Public Health in Telford and Shropshire have said that all homes from September 27 must close to non-essential visitors. Where there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ a relative may still be able to visit a loved one. In these instances, arrangements will be put in place to support both the resident and family members. What is classed ‘exceptional circumstances’? Please refer to "What is considered an 'exceptional circumstance' when homes are closed to non-essential visitors?" question above.
Are you still allowing health care professionals to visit homes?
We have always welcomed essential access for health care professionals and urgent suppliers. These visits are strictly monitored and controlled.
Are you still admitting residents to homes?
We have admitted new residents throughout the pandemic. These have been carefully controlled and are now subject to fresh government direction. As you would expect each admission follows careful assessment of needs by applying additional screening to our normal thorough admission assessment. This now includes a test for COVID-19 indicating that the person is no longer positive and/or is asymptomatic. Following guidance, anyone being newly admitted to a home will be supported and asked to stay in their own room for at least 14 days as a precautionary measure.
What if my relative needs additional medical help?
Coverage Care Services continues to have access to a full range of medical services when necessary as well as additional health and social care support from its partner agencies.
What will happen if my relative or loved one starts to show symptoms associated with COVID-19?
In line with Government guidance a test will be arranged and any resident displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 will be supported in their own room for the recommended period. As next of kin we will naturally keep you informed of any change in health.
Will my relative be tested for COVID-19?
All residents are being tested every 28 days in line with care sector guidance. More frequent testing will be carried if a resident displays symptoms; if they should come into contact with someone who has been confirmed to have the virus or if there is a confirmed outbreak within the home.
If my relative tests positive for COVID-19 how will he/she be cared for?
We do not assume all illness is COVID-related and advocate for residents to be treated for infections and other illnesses proactively. If, however, residents test positive they will be supported in their rooms for 14 days. Residents are monitored closely, and their temperatures are taken twice a day. Acute care plans are introduced to monitor fluid/food intake and repositioning charts are completed to reduce the likelihood of pressure areas. Support is given to maintain mobility and muscle mass whilst in their rooms/units. Wherever possible rooms being used for self-isolation are en-suite and all will have a TV and or radio available to provide background company if required.
Do staff have access to appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) equipment?
Yes, we are proud of the fact that throughout the pandemic we have been able to provide all staff with the PPE indicated by Public Health England guidance and we are confident this will continue to be the case. We are aware that some have struggled to meet this standard but this is not the case at Coverage Care.
Are staff being tested for COVID-19?
Yes, staff are being tested three times a week, twice using a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) and once by undergoing a Polymerase Chain Reaction test (PCR).
Any member of staff who suspects they have symptoms associated with COVID-19 will self-isolate for the recommended period of time. If staff test positive then our policy is that they are able to return to work after 14 days or 7 days after the last sign of symptoms. This period of absence is fully paid.
Will Coverage Care be providing recovery beds for COVID-19 patients who are discharged from hospital?
Any person who has tested positive and/or displaying acute symptoms associated with COVID-19 will not be admitted to any home run by Coverage Care Services. We expect people who have previously tested positive to be re-tested and to be asymptomatic prior to an admission being agreed. Requests may be assessed on an individual basis and if convalescent patients were to be accepted, they would be subject to strict isolation controls referred to above.
What action is being taken to slow the spread of the virus in your care homes?
We are adhering to strict protocols to protect residents and staff throughout all of our homes, based on Public Health England’s guidance, Government policy and our own experience. Measures in place include:
- Visitors and health care staff to follow new visitor protocols in homes which given the go-ahead to re-open to visitors
- Health screening questions on admission to a home
- Automatic 14 day isolation period for residents admitted into the home or following an appointment at hospital
- Residents will only be admitted from hospital after receiving a negative COVID -19 test result
- Staff do not wear their uniforms to or from work including footwear
- PPE guidance relevant at the time is followed (we have maintained supplies of PPE throughout)
- Infection Prevention and Control training is in place
- Hand washing guidance is adhered to and reinforced by posters
- Staff are trained how to safely put on and take off PPE
- We keep staff working on one unit (cohort) for their shift to limit the likelihood of transmitting the virus
- Cleaning regimes have increased and “deep cleaning protocols” are the norm
What are the arrangements for keeping relatives informed about what is happening in homes? The Health Secretary said in the briefing on Friday all homes should be open and transparent.
At Coverage Care, we believe we have been and continue to be open and transparent about the situation in our homes. We communicate on a regular basis with all relatives and do our best to enable residents to maintain positive communications with their family members. We are only too pleased to respond to individual queries and we routinely reproduce any questions asked (anonymously) in these pages.
- We send weekly family letters via email updating everyone on what is happening in Coverage Care during the COVID- 19 pandemic
- We post regular updates on our website
- We purchased additional laptops to facilitate Skype calls between residents and their families. Feedback from relatives about this has been very positive.
- Individual homes make contact with relatives if a resident’s condition changes and reporting schedule is agreed to make sure relatives are kept up to speed on their family member’s health
- We have actively increased our social media engagement to make sure family members can view all the positive things taking place within our homes.
Our excellent advisors have recently developed a social media “wall” and we would very much encourage you to view this so you can keep up to date with home activities. We would also encourage you to contribute your comments by posting on our social media platforms.
How can I/my friend/relative manage during the period of “self-isolation”?
We have continued to accept new residents into our homes throughout the pandemic. These have been carefully controlled and as you would expect, each admission follows careful assessment and screening for Covid-19.
Following care sector guidance, anyone being newly admitted to a home is asked to ‘isolate’ for at least 14 days as a precautionary measure.
Within our homes, we prefer to use the term ‘assisted access’ rather than isolation when it comes to describing the process involved when someone becomes a new resident within our homes.
This means staff are on hand to support new residents from day one, providing tailored support and care to individuals while in their rooms.
There is increased input from carers, cleaners and activity staff during the 14-day period so that new residents can adapt and transition to their new home comfortably with all their needs being taken care of.
Residents are still encouraged to go on accompanied walks around the gardens so they can maintain a healthy level of physical activity and staff will also encourage residents to go on socially distanced supported walks around the home.
Once the 14-day isolation period comes to an end, home managers have plans in place to make sure all new residents become fully integrated into home life.
Has Coverage Care furloughed any of its employees?
A small number of our staff are deemed as vulnerable and require to be shielded in line with the Government’s guidance. In some of these cases staff have been furloughed. You will be aware that the rules regarding furlough are due to change in the near future.
What if I have further concerns?