In an everchanging landscape of Covid-19, testing and vaccinations, I am writing to update you on our approach at this time in respect of visiting arrangements, particularly in the lead up to the festive period.
We know that visiting is a central part of care home life and is crucially important for maintaining health and wellbeing and quality of life for our residents. Visiting is also vital for family and friends to maintain contact and life-long relationships with their loved ones and contribute to their support and care. However, welcoming people into our care homes from the community inevitably brings infection risk. As a care provider we are continually evaluating this risk to achieve the right balance between the benefits of visiting on wellbeing and quality of life, and the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to our staff and clinically vulnerable residents.
As you may be aware the Government have announced the introduction of Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing for care homes, to support visiting in care homes. Currently not all of our homes have received these tests and in order to be able to process this type testing for each of our homes we are required to have in place the following:
- A separate area for the visitor testing workflow from other parts of the home
- Protocols and resources for cleaning the testing area between tests and following Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) contamination protocol.
- Ensuring that visitors putting on PPE during testing and visiting comply with guidance on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures
- Have the facilities to keep any devices used for registration clean between each use and following IPC measures carefully
- To provide ‘clean and dirty’ entrances for the testing area
- Have an agreed procedure for invalid LFD tests and any visitors who cannot or refuse to test
- Supervision of all face to face visits to ensure that social distancing and PPE use is maintained
- The facilities to complete, administer and submit a further PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test in the event that a LFD Test is returned as positive
The layout, facilities and resource implications of offering LFD testing and supervision of face to face visiting presents a significant challenge to us, compounded by the much publicised concerns in respect of the accuracy and safety of the Lateral Flow Device testing. We will therefore contact you again when these are available. For now please assume if you have not heard from us that this form of testing is not in place.
As per my previous letter, we are now able to offer Covid-19 secure visiting facilities in the majority of our homes, which are bookable via our website, www.swallowcourt.com and for the time being this will be the primary method of visiting at the homes. We of course continue to encourage virtual contact with your loved ones using video technology.
We recognise how important visiting is as residents approach the end of their lives. As has been the case throughout the pandemic response, visits in exceptional circumstances in which one ‘essential visitor’ may be permitted into a resident’s bedroom for end of life or compassionate grounds. This is only when there are no COVID-19 positive residents present in the home. Once agreed however, this will be the same person for any subsequent agreed visits.
We are also awaiting further updates and guidance regarding the roll-out of the Covid-19 Vaccination programme for residents within our care, having already commenced with a hugely positive uptake from our care staff who have received the initial vaccination dose.
It is sincerely hoped that over the next few months we will have had significant enough numbers of both residents and staff vaccinated to provide an element of herd immunity within our homes to be able to support a return to a new normality, in which we can more freely welcome visitors.
Whilst I absolutely appreciate the frustration that this virus causes in respect of visiting arrangements and contact with loved ones, we ask for your patience and understanding of the ever changing, complex and difficult position we find ourselves in balancing the safety and well-being of the residents within our care.
It is regrettable that we need to highlight that we adopt a zero-tolerance approach to abusive and aggressive behaviours by visitors and callers to our homes. Our staff come to work to care for others, and it is important for all members of the public and our staff be treated with courtesy and respect.
Abusive behaviour will not be tolerated and any individual who is verbally abusive to members of staff, either in person or on the telephone will be prevented from visiting the home.
We also ask that visitors to our homes continue to observe clearly displayed guidance at the entrances to all our buildings and do not attempt to access any of our homes without consent to do so.
On a personal note, without exception 2020 has been the single most challenging of times and I am sure this is a sentiment echoed by all. Yet, despite the absolute adversity, pressures and hardships faced, I reflect upon the year with pride and humility in our wonderful staff teams and inspirational individuals within all of our homes who have shown dedication, compassion and commitment in all they do to make a positive difference to the lives of individuals for whom we are privileged to care.
With kindest regards, seasons greetings and wishes for a positive and prosperous 2021!