LETTER: Our care homes followed advice we were given
I am writing in response to the PM’s recent comments about how he believed many care homes did not follow proper procedures on coronavirus.
As a CEO of a charity which delivers complex care and rehabilitation to clients in nursing and care home settings, when the lockdown was first declared, I like many others in my field, had assessed the risk and decided to close down the hatches 10 days before the lockdown. This was based on best advice to me at the time. The central advice for the first few weeks was confused and that was expected, this was a difficult changing world.
This is unchartered territory for all of us and our outbreak plans have all been tested to the full. We ask the PM on our behalf, to make the best decisions based on the best advice he has at the time. But we can only go with what we know, assess or believe is right for the safety of public or our clients.
So what did we do? We restricted staff going home, working elsewhere, limited visits to the homes, sent staff to work at home, isolated staff we felt may be at risk, stopped families visiting, brought our own PPE, we knew the NHS had to have first call, we got supplies in ready for isolation, changed our IT systems so communication to the external world happened easily for many, we held daily meetings to check on progress and review data, advice and expert views.
We ensured anyone that came from hospital, before testing was so available, was isolated for 14 days, we brought, at hugely inflated costs, hand sanitisers, test kits, not forgetting PPE, all in the absence of the first plans and any money kicking in.
We did this in line with the understandably, ever changing, Government advice, but our risk assessment has been client and staff safety first. This was at a time when we lost all our fundraising events, in one hit overnight, now predicted to lose £1m this year. But did we go out and say it’s your fault Mr Prime Minister? No. We followed guidance and added additional levels of precaution ourselves. We were grateful for the small amounts of resource we have been given.
The NHS has had rightful praise but the social care teams need equal praise; we all had the same risk and the same transmission happened in hospital as in care homes. We have had no Covid cases transpire in any of our services, we have very fragile clients and we took directly from hospitals throughout the pandemic to ensure the NHS bed capacity was managed. We see ourselves as part of the NHS pathway and are proud to be that. Don’t isolate us even more now. We made decisions based on science advice and risk assessment. Isn’t that what you did?
Karen Deacon, CEO, Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People