As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Managing Director, Leah Marsh speaks to Astor Bannerman about how Swallowcourt has been affected by Covid-19 over the past 18 months

Original article from

To show our support for National Mental Health Awareness Week we have “downed our tools” and taken time out to catch up with some of our customers to find out how their mental health and the mental health of those around them has been affected by the events of the past 18 months.

We caught up with Swallowcourt Care Homes Managing Director, Leah Marsh, to hear how Covid-19 affected her, their residents and their staff during the past 18 months.

Swallowcourt nursing and residential homes are situated within some of the most beautiful settings in Cornwall. The homes are well appointed and maintained.  Each home is managed by talented and experienced professionals who lead dedicated, passionate, and highly trained nursing and care teams, caring for over 200 individuals at any time.

With over 400 employees, Swallowcourt prides itself on its commitment to supporting, nurturing, and caring for its staff so they are well placed to provide the highest level of care to the residents they are privileged to support.

“The lack of PPE was the first major issue that we faced. We went from items costing pence to now costing pounds. But the increase in cost wasn’t our issue, I would happily have spent double, triple to protect my staff and residents – we just couldn’t source any of the items that we needed

This meant that I was up many an evening, past midnight hand sewing masks. I wanted to do anything I could to help. I am a “hands on” person, and I struggled with the fact that all of a sudden, we were so fractured, I couldn’t go in. In order to protect my staff and residents I couldn’t be with them, and that was hard.

For me this was my lowest point, I was asking my staff to basically put their lives at risk on a daily basis to care for our residents.

I know that all of my Care Home Managers felt the same, we all really struggled with not physically being able to check in on everyone and what with we were asking our carers to do.

Pre Covid-19 we started to roll out an initiative where we trained staff in mental health first aid – someone that you could go to and say “This is rubbish, I’m struggling. Can you help?” We focus so much on our physical wellbeing and we wanted to create an environment where mental health is just as important and people feel comfortable to put their hands up and ask for help.

All of our senior leadership team have also now attended a mental health first aid course, and so have I. This is just the start for us in creating an environment where it’s OK to not be OK.

We also ensured our staff had access to Simply Health, counselling helplines and access to our partner charity, The Care Workers Charity for crisis financial support.

Some members of staff had partners who were furloughed or even lost their jobs, there was financial pressure for sure for some and we wanted to ensure that we gave them access to as much information and support as possible.”

I know that we had the “Clap for Carers“ initiative, but I have to admit even I hadn’t considered all of the things you’ve mentioned. Were there any positives?

“Absolutely there were. I witnessed some truly outstanding acts of kindness. We had a member of staff that left her family and lived in a caravan for two months. She has a young family of her own, and she moved out of the family home to protect the residents that she cared for. Utter dedication and a truly selfless act.

The local community were amazing. The local sewing circle all started to make us masks, Domino’s sent free pizzas, a local distillery started to make sanitiser and delivered that for free to protect us. Morrison’s donated free Easter eggs and we had a local school making us 3D visors.

One of the highlights for me was our internal Swallowcourt Care Home Heroes Awards. The nominations people were making for their peers was so lovely to see and the stories were lovely to hear, it was so hard to shortlist winners, when all the nominations were worthy of recognition for their dedication and selflessness”

After talking with Leah, I couldn’t help but think “wow what a lady, what a company”. But also, that in the face of what was an emotional and stressful time for all – that maybe it truly has brought us all closer together.

At the end of our catch up, she challenged me to watch the award nomination video without shedding a tear….. I didn’t succeed. My challenge to you would be the same!