Our social care needs care now

From: Karen Deacon, CEO, Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People

Care home residents gv PPP-200206-150251003
Care home residents gv PPP-200206-150251003

I am writing in response to the PMs 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 across Surrey and Kent, 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 both, environmental issues and progress of a disease we all knew little about.

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, some will be life saving, some may not. But we can only go with what we know, assess or believe is right for the safety of public, in the PM’s case or our clients in our case.

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 maybe 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 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 in one room with the same staff only supporting them, 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, is something essential if that adds to risk and then is it agreed through our internal reviews to happen. 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, but we continue to rely on our own self help for survival.

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 take directly from hospitals throughout the pandemic to ensure the NHS bed capacity was managed. Our charity now takes long term post ventilated patients with Covid for rehabilitation as their journey is complex and long, we see ourselves as part of the NHS pathway and our 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?

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