Since my last letter at the end of May we have continued to see the relaxation of the Covid restrictions across the country culminating in ‘Freedom Day’ on the 19th July. At the same time we have seen substantial increases in infection levels, back to where we were at the start of the year! But thanks to the vaccine rollout hospital admissions and deaths have remained low. In many respects the picture feels positive, but I remain very cautious about what could happen.
Care Home visiting guidance has changed over this period, with the latest changes effective from the 19th July. In many respects the changes in the guidance mirrors the actions we had already put in place, which is reassuring.
The key changes in the guidance are:
• There are no longer restrictions on the number of visitors a resident can have. Residents can now have unlimited ‘named visitors’.
• Named visitors are agreed with the resident or family and friends where the resident does not have capacity.
• The homes will need to keep a record of all the named visitors and vaccination details if ‘ad hoc’ visits
Given we have already been offering extensive visiting options, accommodating this change is not a problem. The rest of our visiting policy remains unchanged. I am pleased to say that the ‘ad hoc’ visiting we introduced for a trial period in June, has been well received by all so we will be continuing to offer that option to any named visitor.
The two conditions are:
1. The named visitor must have had both the vaccines and must provide the home with the evidence, which the home will record; and
2. They must have taken an LFT test at their own home on the day of their visit and provide the home with the evidence on arrival – NHS email /text message. This is part of Government guidance, homes cannot accept a picture of the LFT test cartridge.
Given the level of infections across the country I am pleased to say we only have 13 staff members who have tested positive. This I am sure is reflective of having over 92% of our team vaccinated. A tremendous amount of work has gone into our vaccination effort and I believe it is paying dividends. The same can be said for our residents where we only have 2 residents who have tested positive and are in isolation. Both are well and asymptomatic.
In total we have 39 staff isolating, 12 are living with someone who is positive or symptomatic and 14 are isolating due to track & trace. Undoubtedly we have had issues with staff having to isolate due to their children, I understand that some 25% of school children have at times been isolating! Track & Trace is reflective of the wider issues being seen across the country. The recent changes to allow vaccinated care workers to continue to work if caught by Track & Track is very welcome and will help as we move into the peak of summer holidays.
My overriding message is one of reassurance with caution. I genuinely believe we are doing all we can to facilitate visiting and enable our residents to make the most of our care homes. At the same time we are not about to take inappropriate risks. Our infection control policies, which have stood us in such good stead over the last 18 months will remain firmly in place. Residents and staff will be offered the vaccine booster from September, according to Government guidance. We will be ready to implement.
Since my last letter we restarted the minibus trips for all homes from the beginning of June. These have been very well received by both residents and staff, another positive step. To minimise risk the trips, in the main, to date have been drives with stops for tea & coffee and of course cake or a picnic, all brought with them on the buses.
If you haven’t already seen it please have a look at our Summer edition of the Colten Chronicle - https://chronicle.coltencare.co.uk/ we led with our celebration of nurses day. It is so important to recognise all our nurses, they lead our Clinical Excellence and set all our homes apart.
Other highlights included World Music Day, our music and arts partner – Fiona Pritchard co-ordinated a special musical celebration from across all our homes, what talented people we have.
Finally, Braemar Lodge celebrated their 14th birthday as only Braemar could!
There is certainly never a dull moment for residents in their homes and for that my thanks goes to both the Companionship teams and all those team members who support them. Across all our homes, it is this time of year when their amazing gardens coming into their own. Residents are actively involved in helping the gardening team and make the most of these lovely spaces.
In terms of some upcoming highlights, we have Woodpeckers taking part in National Garden Open Day in mid Sept. We have a pop-up choir planned in Lymington on the 24th August and all homes are busy with their submissions for the Colten Produce Show. Judging will take place in September and if previous years are to go by the competition will be fierce!
We continue to take many positive steps forward and enable residents, families and the teams to achieve as much as possible. But with appropriate precautionary measures in place. I would like to thank you all for respecting these and for your support and understanding.
Mark Aitchison, Colten Care