As you know, we are all in the most challenging of times due to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
I write this update aware of the Government’s announcement re the 1st June, the guidance makes it clear that does not include Care Homes, given the risks involved.
Last week I promised to outline the approach we are planning on adopting with regard to visiting. We envisage this being the first step in how we approach safe visiting and as time progresses, we will look at other options in line with PHE and Government guidance.
Below I have outlined how we will enable relatives and residents to meet safely. I will confirm the date that this can happen once we feel it is appropriate given the risks involved in conjunction with advice from PHE.
All of our homes have reception areas and the vast majority of those have porches / lobby areas. We have had bespoke screens made that will fit in the gap of one of the opened inner doors, thereby creating an easy to manoeuvre shield. The resident will sit in the reception area, in front of the shield and the visiting relative will be on the other side of the shield in the porch / lobby. We will have a booking system where there will be initially two slots in the morning and two slots in the afternoon. After each visit the area where the relative has been sat will be thoroughly cleaned ready for the next visit. During these visiting periods the entrance area will become a protected space, so no one else (other than for medical emergencies) will be allowed in this area.
The homes will control booking of these slots to ensure all are treated fairly. We are currently drafting the guidelines as to how this will work.Clearly to enable this there is much to arrange over the 21 homes and that is currently being worked on.
Safety remains paramount and I believe that once in place this solution will enable safe visiting and therefore hopefully please those of you keen to visit whilst at the same time reassuring those concerned about allowing visitors that there is no added risk. There will be a continued approach of only essential visitors inside the body of our homes at this time.
This week is newsletter week and yet again there is a mass of content to share, thanking of the home's nurses on International Nurses day our VE day celebrations.
Finally, our Summer Colten Chronicle has just been produced. This is our first since the impact of the pandemic. It is a great showcase of what the homes have been up to and achieved during this difficult time. I am incredibly proud of all my team across all areas both in the homes and in Colten House - A true One Team approach. This shows their pride in their homes and their passion for the residents – the extended family resonates loud and clear.
I have attached a link to it below, it is also on our website. Please feel free to share and let’s celebrate what life can be like in a care home.
CLICK HERE TO READ OUR COLTEN CHRONICLE
Mark Aitchison Chief Executive, Colten Care
I will start my update thanking everyone who has emailed me or contacted homes directly. Taking the time to write a few words of thanks and recognition of the efforts of all the teams in the homes is greatly appreciated and makes a real
difference. It provides a very real counterpoint to all the negative media and carries so much meaning coming from relatives.
I can assure you that all the homes will be doing their best to make the most of celebrating VE day tomorrow. I know that lots of things are planned and I am sure a great time will be had by all. We will produce a video compilation
to share with everyone available in our next newsletter. If you have family members who are not on our circulation list, please email the homes and we can make any additions.
I had two key messages from relatives this last week, why aren’t we doing more about testing staff and residents and appreciation that we were looking at a solution to enable controlled visits at some point. For the latter we are
working on having a solution to share by the end of this month.
With regard to testing, it is fair to say the country’s increasing testing capability has not been matched by an infrastructure to deliver it. It is very evident that across Government, Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS CCGs
there is a clear intention to increase the amount of people being tested. That is happening but our influence on this is minimal.
PHE determine the testing requirements of our residents. We make regular requests to them for test kits, but it is they who determine the number of residents tested. I can say there has been a continual increase each week in the number
of residents tested. Todate their rationale for testing has predominately been driven by the lack of capacity and the desire to get NHS hospital patients and staff tested ahead of those living and working in care homes. This is changing.
I should stress that knowing if a resident is Covid19 positive does not change what we do with regard to their care. PHE and the CQC have been very complimentary with the procedures we have in place. Which I should stress we
can deliver because of the substantial investment we have made and continue to make in PPE and our in-house expertise in robust infection control policy delivery and compliance.
I genuinely believe we are doing all that we can. Any suggestions or advice from our clinical teams is immediately acted on. We also have our clinical teams based in the homes now, so they can provide both valuable support
and ensure our procedures are being complied with as they should. This way they are able to provide valuable feedback which our Operations team can quickly act on.
I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise and reassure that for the teams in the homes they are doing their best to ensure ‘business as usual’, which is so important for our residents. Be that ensuring residents’
care needs are meet, that there are plenty of activities, the gardens are maintained for residents to enjoy. The catering teams continue to deliver high quality food and, of course, cakes and the domestic and housekeeping teams
deliver clean fresh laundry and maintain the high standards of cleanliness. Behind the scenes our admin and maintenance teams ensure the continued smooth running of the homes. Truly One Team. I hope you get a sense
of this when you speak with your loved ones.
A few weeks ago, Chichester Youth Festival Theatre recorded a song for our residents at Wellington Grange – Stand by Me. Some of you may have seen it, below is the link. This came about through the community links the
home has made with the theatre over the years. They wanted to do something for residents and the team.
As you can imagine this was very much appreciated by both residents and the team. It was a fantastic morale boost. They wanted to do their own as a thank you. So, led by our Music & Arts partner Fiona Pritchard and
Emily Hudson the Senior Companionship Team Leader for the home the residents and team produced this:
For me this typifies how much the teams and residents across our homes are one big family and how they have embraced this ‘new normal’ as best they can. That very much was the spirit of 75 years ago and VE day.
I am incredibly proud of them all. Together we will all get through this.
This last week I have had a steady stream of emails giving thanks to the teams, many detailing the little things that have made a difference for your loved ones. I try and reply as quickly as I am able and I can assure you that all are
shared with the homes. I know all are greatly appreciated, thank you.
The first thing to emphasise is that when it comes to guidance, be that from the Government, Public Health England (PHE) or our regulator the CQC, it is a moving picture and one that is not always joined up. We have taken the view that
whilst we will obviously follow the guidance we will go above that where we believe that to be appropriate.
An example of that is in testing and PPE. The role out of resident testing has been gradual. Over the last couple of weeks we have been working with PHE to get more of our symptomatic residents tested and that I am pleased to say is happening.
It is only symptomatic residents that are tested and they have to have been symptomatic for at least three days. We are now pushing back on PHE to be able to retest residents before isolation ends. I hope that is something that will
The world of PPE moves on again and the latest PHE advice is for staff to wear masks throughout their shifts, a complete about turn on guidance to date. Therefore, you will see staff wearing PPE, it means the home is following the latest
guidance and keeping your loved one safe.
Luckily, we have plenty and have ordered even more. But to illustrate the challenges this creates, whilst PHE issue the guidance they don’t manage the supply chain of PPE, that is done by the NHS CCGs. Which is not geared up to deliver
the volume of masks this change in guidance requires. For instance, we now estimate that we will need around 20,000 masks a week. We are fortunate to have made the decision from the start to purchase what we need, when we need it and
not rely the NHS CCGs to provide it.
You will be aware from my previous letters that we have introduced some very strict admissions procedures and focused solely on supporting the vulnerable elderly in the communities around the homes. The reality is, as expected, we have
seen a significant drop in admissions. We are not expecting any short or even medium-term change to this new way of operating, it has become the ‘new norm’. We are therefore reviewing each home and seeing home by home whether
we can move residents within the home such as to create ‘isolation areas’. This will have a number of potential benefits: added protection for existing residents; less pressure on staff and therefore reducing the need for
agency; and a ‘safe area’ where new admissions would move in and self-isolate.
I know how much being able to visit means and a few relatives have asked when this will be possible? In reality I can’t say, it is clear that any releasing of lock down will be gradual and there will be separate guidance for the
elderly. What I can say is that it will be a long time before there will be free access to homes. I therefore have a team looking at ideas as to what we could do to allow safe controlled access, when the time is right.
This week is newsletter week, so we are busy in their production and they will be sent to relatives by the weekend. This will be the third one we have produced. What is astounding to see is the amount of content and great pictures, it
just shows how much goes on in the homes and how homes have embraced the current challenges. Again, I can’t put into words how amazing the teams in our homes are. They are constantly looking at new ways to make the days interesting
for the residents. There are many great examples of laughter and fun to be seen in the newsletters.
I would like to start with a thank you to everyone who has emailed me this last week, virtually everyone was sharing their appreciation of the teams in the homes. I have shared all the lovely comments with the homes, it is great
for morale. I also know many have contacted the homes directly, thank you.
I am trying to present a balance, being open and honest about what we are doing and also sharing with you what the homes are up to and how life in the homes for residents is as ‘normal’ as possible. This way I hope
you gain some reassurance. If I could ask a favour of those feeling so inclined. In our communities there are many vulnerable elderly people who are in extended isolation. I suspect many will feel scared, lonely,
worried and will be struggling. I believe our homes are safe havens there to support such people in our communities. It is all well and good what we have to say, but what makes the difference is the reassuring referral.
If you feel so inclined and you are aware of anyone elderly person on their own, please reassure them that they can speak with any of our homes and we are open for such admissions. For that I thank you.
On the matter of PPE and equipment, in addition to the 100,000 face masks bought last week, we bought another 100,000 whilst they were available. We have also had numerous offers of visors being donated, local companies and
schools that have turned their hands to making them. Great to see the community support and we are most grateful. The 200 infra-red thermometers arrived and are in the homes. They make taking temperatures
so much easier.
Testing continues to be another prime media topic. There are two areas to update:
I must say that the staff have been exceptional, working long hours to provide the staffing cover needed. All the measures we have put in place are with the guidance of PHE and the CQC are kept fully informed. Both
parties have been complementary about our speed of response, robust policies and the procedures we have implemented.
Personally, I find it very frustrating that all the media seem to be concerned with are negative messages re the care sector, of which there have been plenty this last week. We all know these are unprecedented times and rightly
so there is much to be concerned about. Equally there is much to celebrate and show recognition for.
As CEO I am continually amazed at the lengths our staff continue to go to not only to meet the day to day requirements of personal care, high quality fresh food and nursing care, all of which are vital, but also the constant want
and desire to make the homes a great place to be offering hugs and companionship to all when needed – including to each other.
Please keep sharing your own thanks and appreciation to the homes and teams it really does mean so much. It is a great morale boost.
Mark Aitchison, Chief Executive, Colten Care
I hope you were all able to enjoy Easter and make the most of the lovely weather within the restrictions in place. I know that the homes were very busy over Easter and a flavour of what they have all been doing is illustrated
in the newsletters we have sent out. I thank all the teams in the homes, led by companionship, they all achieved some truly remarkable things.
I am told that Skype was particularly popular. I know myself how much it means to be able to see and speak with your loved one.
In my update last week, I asked for everyone to take a moment and in your own way show your appreciation and thanks to the teams. I was delighted to receive many emails reflecting just that and for that I thank you.
I have shared them all with the homes. I know that many homes received messages directly, I have seen some wonderfully creative and thoughtful messages.
It is fair to say this last week the media have further increased coverage of the impact of the virus on care homes. I am sure that must be causing you added worry, I know it hasn’t helped our teams. I will endeavour
to address the key areas:
I would like to end my update on a positive. Last week all the residents wanted to show their appreciation and we have produced a short video showing what they did. Please take a moment to view, CLICK HERE.
With the Easter weekend ahead, Easter eggs have been delivered to all the homes who, as I am sure you can imagine, have much planned. This will hopefully be captured in pictures and videos and shared on their websites.
We are all, rightly so, showing our appreciation to the NHS staff on a Thursday evening. Please could I ask you all to take a moment and show your own thanks to the teams in the homes. I know our residents are keen to do this
and I believe they are working on something which I hope to share in my update next week.
We are very aware that there have been various recent press stories about residents being admitted into Care Homes who are symptomatic. My Home Managers have asked me to reassure you all that they are taking a very firm line
on any admission. Only a few are happening and those that are have no symptoms on admission and will self isolate in their rooms for 14 days. We have not relaxed our position.
I would like to address a couple of issues that have been the focus of the media this week – PPE and staffing pressures. It is evident to us all that the Government, NHS CCGs and the local councils are all doing their
best to enable a supply chain for the PPE. We have received some items. However, what is clear is we cannot rely on others to provide the PPE our staff need. We have been addressing this for the last few weeks and we have
both stock in our warehouse and the homes and a stream of orders coming in over the next few weeks. Compared to many care homes we are in a fortunate position.
This week we have also launched a new recruitment campaign appealing to people who are Proud to Care and want to Make a Difference. We believe now is a great time to recruit people who reflect our Values and have a passion
for care. We have implemented a new recruitment process within the business to keep applicants away from the homes until final selection process. This ensures that we can be responsive to applicants and that the Home Managers
are supported in what could be a substantial volume of applicants to deal with. It’s a good way to show how at Colten we work as “One Team”. I am sharing this information with you to try and help reassure
that we are doing all we can to keep residents safe and the teams protected, whilst at the same time enabling residents to enjoy the facilities of the homes. No simple task! Thank you and thank you to all our care home
teams – One Team!
With the passage of another week I thought a further update would be helpful. I know many have advised that you find them helpful.
We will of course support the NHS CCGs in the same way we always have. Any admission is ultimately the decision of the Home Manager any potential admission that is either confirmed Covid 19 or symptomatic would not be admitted
and every admission will have to self-isolate in their room for 14 days.
As I said last week, we will not compromise the safety of our residents or staff.
As many of you will know we have two Admiral Nurses to support our dementia communities, Adam Smith, Consultant Admiral Nurse and Kay Gibson Admiral Nurse. The drop-in sessions they have been running are obviously stopped,
however they are very happy to speak with anyone on the phone. You can contact them by simply going to www.Coltencare.co.uk and click on the purple Admiral Nurse box then click “Ask a Question”.
This week we started sending a Companionship Newsletter for each home. These give a flavour of all the great things that are going on in the homes and also how the homes are still managing to engage with their communities.
Technology is certainly being embraced. Daily diary stories are also available on the homes websites. What is very clear to me is that residents and the teams are making the most of the great facilities we have and
the fantastic gardens. You will see social distancing in action.
The homes are telling me how popular Skype and Zoom have become.
The training programme I mentioned in my last letter is in place so we can make the most of our people to support the homes where needed. This is starting to happen, one of my fellow directors, George Colwell, has been
helping the domestic team in one of our homes!
I am sharing this so you can get a sense as to how we are supporting our 21 homes Thank you to everyone.
So much change in the week since my last update. I sincerely thank you all for accepting the restrictions we have put in place, for the foreseeable future homes will remain closed to all relative visits.
I thought it would be helpful to reassure you all by outlining what we are doing.
Firstly, I have a team who report to me on a daily basis all that is happening and we are doing. We have a meeting (tele conferencing) three times a week to cover all the detail and plan ahead. Having all our homes
in close proximity, all can be reached within 1 1/4hrs from our head office, means we know first-hand what is going on and are able to provide support quickly.
Social distancing, a phrase which a few weeks ago was unknown is now firmly at the forefront of our minds. We have introduced it within the homes, key areas include activities being run in small groups and lunch will
now be served over two sittings. Staff where they can will keep at least 2m apart, clearly that is not always possible, we cannot compromise care.
We have brought in more people to deliver activities and companionship and are actively involving residents in shaping what they do. We plan to produce every 2 weeks a newsletter about what is going on in homes. I
would like to encourage letter writing; we will of course be helping residents do this. We are very fortunate to have fantastic outdoor spaces and we are making sure that residents are able to use these to the maximum.
We are initiating a training programme so that the support teams based at Head Office are able to be deployed, if needs be, into specific homes as extra resource supporting non care roles. We have a great Learning &
Development team who are putting this together combined with delivering training via webinars. I am delighted how everyone has risen to the challenges and embracing how they can deliver what they do differently.
In terms of supplies for our homes, we are assured by our food suppliers that there are no issues, but as a precaution we are making meals to freeze in our many freezers and we have also created a backup menu which
can be delivered without a chef – if needs be.
Equipment supplies, purchasing of these remain a challenge but we are well stocked in our warehouse and now we are also seeing deliveries of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
We are about to undertake a new recruitment campaign. Not because we are short staffed, but to try and secure extra staff to support the teams. There are clearly many people who have unfortunately lost their jobs and
are looking for work.
Given the pressures the NHS is facing it is inevitable we will be asked to take hospital patients, it is starting to happen. We have therefore introduced strict admission processes, which adhere to our no visitor policy
and will require any admission to self-isolate for 14 days. I can reassure that we will not compromise the safety of our residents or staff.
I think it is important for me to say that whilst we are taking all the measures my clinical team believe appropriate, we cannot stop the virus getting into our homes. As you would expect we have a clear policy re how
to care for residents who are symptomatic.
All our homes are well versed in caring for residents with viruses, this is familiar territory to our experienced teams. We have also taken guidance from Public Health England (PHE) re the impact on other residents
where homes have potentially symptomatic residents. I am pleased to advise that there is not a need to self-isolate all residents, our daily monitoring of residents combined with social distancing and deep cleaning
of communal spaces will ensure residents the freedom to continue to use their home’s facilities and gardens.
I hope that you find this update helpful and reassuring, we know more than ever that communication is so important. We have seen a large increase in the volume of incoming calls between 8 – 10am when so many of
the team are supporting residents to start their day.
Finally, all that I have outlined is only possible because of the fantastic team of people we have across the homes and in support. I would like to say a massive thank you to them all, it is they that are making a difference.
We have been taking proportionate measures to allow relatives to continue to visit their loved ones for as long as possible. As we all know these times are unprecedented and circumstances are quickly changing.
We had wanted to be able to enable visiting this weekend, particularly mindful that it is Mother’s Day. However, we believe that we have now reached that point where I must advise, that with immediate
effect, all our homes will be closed for resident visits. The only exception would be exceptional visits that must first be agreed with the Home Manager.
I am very mindful of the distress this will cause, so this is not a decision taken lightly. Our focus is wholly on keeping residents safe and staff protected.
We do not have the virus in our homes and we want to keep it that way for as long as possible. Clearly, we have to keep the homes operational, therefore only visits essential to this will be allowed and
access to within the homes greatly restricted. Residents’ spaces will be protected areas.
To further reassure you, we are working closely with all our suppliers and service providers to ensure ongoing access to supplies and we also have stocks of essential items in our warehouse facility. Having
all our homes in easy access from Colten House means we can quickly respond. At this stage I cannot say how long these restrictions will be in place. I will of course keep everyone informed.
All the homes have extensive Wi-Fi capabilities and can support contact through Skype, FaceTime etc. The teams in the homes will endeavour to support residents to stay in contact.
I thank you for your understanding.
As you know, we are all in the most challenging of times due to the spread of coronavirus.
The health, wellbeing and safety of everyone at our homes and our Support Centre – Colten House is and will remain our absolute top priority. The objective is to keep the virus out of our homes
for as long as possible, to keep our residents safe and staff protected. Last week, we began asking relatives and friends of residents to think twice about whether or not a visit is really necessary.
We know how difficult this is for people who just want to spend time with each other. I would like to thank everyone for their patience, understanding and goodwill in helping with our move to minimise
non-essential visits at our homes. We have certainly witnessed a significant drop in the numbers of people coming in.
This week we are also introducing temperature tests for all visitors. We had hoped, for ease of use, to have infrared thermometers available but these have proved impossible to source given national
demand. We will continue with our usual thermometers, which are more accurate. We will ask you to wait in reception while we organise for your temperature to be taken. We have also taken the
decision to introduce visiting hours, which reflects the latest guidance from Public Health England.
With immediate effect there will be two visiting times a day, 10-12pm and 3-5pm. Please can these be followed. We are also restricting the number of visitors for a resident at any one time to a maximum
of two and one would be preferable. Please can visits, where possible, be held in the resident’s room or a walk in the gardens. It is important to minimise exposure to other residents.
At the same time, I would like to reiterate the current public health advice on self-isolation.
The guidance remains:
By way of reassurance our staff will be adhering to these requirements. I thank you again for your support and understanding. Be reassured that we will continue to monitor and act on public health
advice and I will of course update you in line with any changes to what we are doing.
If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact your Home Manager.
Thank you. Mark Aitchsion, Chief Executive, Colten Care
I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that Colten Care is doing everything we can to keep our residents, relatives and staff safe from the potential risk of contact with Covid-19,
Up to now, and fully in line with advice from Public Health England, we have taken a range of steps such as requiring all visitors to our homes to wash their hands immediately on entry. Now, reflecting
the changing situation here in the UK and across the world, we are going further and strengthening our preventative measures.
Effective from today, we ask relatives and friends of residents to think twice about whether a visit is really necessary. If you feel you must visit, please be mindful that for ALL visitors entering
the home, in addition to hand washing, we will require additional procedures to be followed.
At the moment these will be completing a questionnaire to confirm you have no virus symptoms and have not travelled from any affected areas. We are also making arrangements for your temperature to
be taken. It is obviously your choice whether you wish to do these. However, their completion will be mandatory for anyone to enter the home. If you already have any concerns about your own health,
we politely ask you not to come. As a further protection, we are restricting children’s access to our homes, so we request you do not bring any under-16s with you if you visit.
Until further notice, we are also putting on hold all the usual community visits and events we host at our homes and restricting minibus trips for our residents. We have also put in place measures
to restrict the visits from our Colten House Support Staff and external contractors to essential only.
Wherever possible we are also restricting our staff from visiting multiple homes. Strengthening our measures is not a decision we have taken lightly, and we understand the distress it may cause.
In due course we may need to take further steps, we will of course keep all residents, relatives and staff fully informed.
At the moment we consider these steps to be a proportionate approach to keep everyone safe and our homes operating normally and without undue restrictions. This is all about managing a potential
risk that could go on for weeks or months. Please be reassured that we will of course continue to ensure that community healthcare professionals can make medical visits to residents as required.
Our overriding aim is to ensure everyone stays safe and our team members can continue to provide the excellent standard of care our residents and families expect and deserve. In challenging times
like these, we want people to be reassured that Colten Care is a safe haven for the delivery of care. #
We will continue to follow the very best public health advice and update you in line with any changes to what we are doing. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Home Manager.
Thank you in advance for your understanding and co-operation.