3rd August 2020
Dear resident, family member or friend,
Following on from the virtual meetings held during the week with Graeme Lee CEO, Nikki Lee Clark Head of Specialist Services, myself and many relatives, I would like to thank you all for taking the time to join the meeting. As discussed each manager will, over the next few weeks, arrange to hold their next resident and relative meeting via this platform, sharing the minutes with the people who are not able to join. There will be the opportunity for people to send in questions prior to the meetings and the answers will be shared during the meeting or included within the minutes.
After the latest government guidance and advice was issued I felt it important to discuss the detail and offer reassurance to people who wish to visit, but also to the friends and families who have certain anxieties about opening the door to more visitors.
We recognise how difficult it has been for the people in our care and loved ones to restrict visits; the decision was not taken lightly. We are now moving tentatively into a new phase, but with risk at the forefront of our minds and how to reduce those perceived risks to the people living within our homes, our colleagues and also you, the visitors.
I am conscious of balancing the risk of harm to residents through not having visits, with the risk of potential harm to residents, colleagues, and visitors through visits to the homes. We now have the clarification from the government.
Many people living in nursing and care settings are at a higher risk of catching Covid-19 and are seen as having poorer outcomes due to comorbidities. Many people have been shielding and to some extent this may have to continue through circumstances or choice.
Individual risk assessments will be completed prior to the visit and the visitor will be made aware of their responsibilities. If visits can be facilitated with the least possible risk these will always be the first option, for example the garden poses less risk than an in room visit.
There is evidence to suggest that certain people are more vulnerable to serious illness due to Covid-19. If you are part of the BAME group please feel free to discuss any concerns you may have, this will be handled in a sensitive manner. We are happy to provide additional information for you to make an informed decision based on the identified heightened risk factors.
Visitors who have certain health conditions for example COPD or people who have been shielding, will also be subject to increased risk factors. Please feel free to discuss with the home manager any concerns you may have.
Please share and discuss the information contained within this letter and the information pack with other family members. We usually only send communication to the next of kin or significant other, we are finding that not all family and friends are aware of the restrictions and are attending the homes. We unfortunately are unable to know all relevant people involved in the care or lives of the people who reside with us.
As a first phase, we have introduced procedures to open up homes that have been free from infection to enable outdoor visits to take place. I am pleased to report that all homes are now able to commence outdoor visits. Please contact the homes to discuss making an appointment, but please consider if the person you wish to visit will be able to access the outdoor space (our colleagues will be able to advise if you are unsure). Homes now have protocols in place for visits within the home, training is being provided to ensure the visits go as smoothly as possible and we have trialed in-room visits at the same time as finalising individual risk assessments.
To ensure your safety, we need to put a number of additional measures in place during visits. We recognise that many of the additional measures and required restrictions will be difficult for families and friends who have not seen each other for some time, but we believe they are vital in protecting your loved ones.
All visits and circumstances are risk assessed. For ease of communication, visual flowcharts have been produced and can be located on our website. Hard copies have been sent out but if you find you are still not in receipt of the information please speak to the reception team who will be happy to issue the visitors pack.
Following on from the government guidance, I will go through the detail as far as I am able and explain how we interpret this. More details can be found on our websites, contained within our visitor policy and within the information packs.
Compassionate visits for residents who are unwell physically, mentally or for the people in our care who are nearing the end of their life, have always been maintained and will continue to be our priority.
Other visitors to our homes
You will be aware the restrictions to our homes have applied not only to relatives and friends, but to all non-essential visitors. We are aware that certain visits are essential and we will be reviewing all visits to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents. If I may reassure you that all visitors will undertake certain checks and be monitored to maintain the strictest infection control procedures possible.
We will continue to welcome people whose care needs can no longer be met at home or in hospital. We will only admit people when it is safe to do so and, whenever possible, following a test for Covid-19. All people admitted will have to isolate as per guidance. For people who are living with dementia this may prove difficult. A many measures as possible will be put into place to ensure the admission is as safe as possible.
It has been announced that regular testing will be extended to care/nursing homes; this will be weekly for staff and monthly for residents. Whilst these whole home tests provide a very helpful understanding of the status of a home, they are only a moment in time. As such, we are actively working with our public sector partners to ensure these whole home tests become part of a rolling programme. At the moment due to situations beyond our control we have not been supplied with sufficient test kits in all our homes. I am progressing and escalating this to the appropriate authorities.
We continue to see regional variations in both the scale and efficiency of testing. While the testing programme is not perfect, it is one of the most important tools we have to protect those living and working in our homes in the coming months. We will continue to work with partners and be involved with the research programmes we have been invited to participate in, in the belief testing will improve and reduce any future likelihood of the virus taking control again.
You will have noticed that we are only able to invite designated people into our homes as it reduces the number of people entering our communities and contact with residents. Please remember that children under 18 years of age will not be permitted to visit in the home, and under the age of 16 in the garden space.
All visits will be in line with the latest infection prevention and control guidance which will include provision relating to the use of designated areas for visits and the use of social distancing procedures, hand hygiene and PPE.
Please check the responsible visitor charter upon entering any of our homes. We must work together in partnership, and your help in the following areas will be vital:
Please help us to prepare for the visit by assisting with all requests. When visiting one of the requirements is PPE and the wearing of a mask. For some people this can often be difficult, please discuss if you have a condition which would make it difficult or not advisable. We will review the risk assessment, ask for evidence and offer a visor which may assist and make the visit more comfortable.
Consideration will also be given to support the visit, especially when face coverings and other PPE is required. Visitors to the home who are visiting residents should:
We will provide reassurance to visitors, including that some people living with dementia might struggle to recognise the person. Colleagues will try and assist, one small act could be to show the resident photographs and talk about the person prior to the visit. We are always willing to support everyone to improve the quality of the visit and reduce any concerns or anxieties.
We have found that making the necessary arrangements and maintaining all measures takes a significant amount of time. We are hoping to increase the numbers of colleagues allocated to wellbeing in the near future; I ask for you to be patient and give careful consideration to this fact when visiting or making arrangements. Other day to day events and activities will also be taking place to keep residents occupied and make their time as enjoyable as possible. You will see from our social media and photographs we have continued many activities in the homes and given people our time whenever possible, to ease the pain of not seeing their friends or loved ones.
In the event of any suspected or confirmed cases, or an outbreak of Covid-19 within any of our homes, we may need to revert back a step or stop visits until we have fully assessed the situation and consulted our health partners. When notified of any regional lockdown advice will be issued, for example people who live in an identified area will be requested not to visit any of the homes.
As we move slowly to open our homes we must remember that we cannot undo all that has been done. The sacrifices for many have been unprecedented, but we will not forget the people who are no longer with us.
My warmest regards,
Cyd Akrill M.B.E.
Chief Nursing Officer