Care during the crisis

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Posted on24 Jul 2020

Since the start of the pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) has had to do things very differently across its care services, responding to this rapidly changing and unprecedented situation.

The challenge has been to keep the sites as protected and safe as possible from the virus, while also providing a sense of wellbeing, normality and consistency for all the residents, some of whom are the most vulnerable, in terms of their age and pre-existing conditions. Maintaining this safety included enhanced cleaning, enhanced activity support in the care homes- helping families remain connected virtually and investing in new devices and equipment to enable this virtual connection with both families and visiting health and social care professions

From March to June, JRHT provided a staggering 123,000 hours of residential and domiciliary care. To ensure there was enough staff to support this un-paralleled care need, we increased our recruitment activity and filled 78 vacant care posts, we also were assisted with 48 staff from other areas of the organisation who were immediately redeployed to our care services.

A continued priority was to ensure that all the care staff had adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (something that was in short supply nationally at both the start and at the height of the pandemic). However, pulling on the central resources of JRHT/JRF procurement team, meant that the organisation was well prepared by creating a central hub for PPE and a localised distribution network, which meant that all care sites were fully stocked throughout this time period, a sizable achievement considering that care services used over 125,000 items of protective kit during this time and established processes for continued supply and delivery of these items.

However, the focus of the housing and care teams wasn’t just about safety and protection, it was also about quality of life. Staff ensured that resident wellbeing was paramount. With this in mind, normal routines were adhered to as much as possible and residents were encouraged to continue with their chosen activities and hobbies wherever possible.

The care sites even managed to celebrate Victory in Europe Day (albeit with social distancing in place). Residents and staff enjoyed joining in a whole host of activities to celebrate this special day including quizzes, Sing A-Longs to 40s themed classics, and scrumptious afternoon teas serviced by our catering teams, some of whom dressed in military style uniforms from the era.

Good food has always been a big part of the care package and something that is really important to residents. Jacquie Davison, Head of Catering explains: ‘We provided almost 15,000 meals throughout lockdown and comfort food was the order of the day as fish and chips became our most requested dish - I suppose that says a lot about how British people cope in the face of adversity.’

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to resident wellbeing was not being able to see friends and family. In line with guidance from Public Health England, all care sites were closed to non-essential visitors from March. However, special arrangements were made, where there specific circumstances, such as end of life care needs or emotional distress. In addition to this when more freedom was permitted with travel ‘Connection Cafes' were established at some of our services, which enabled residents to have a cuppa with their loved ones at a distance. The fantastic gardens, grounds and wonderful weather made these meetings extra special and enjoyable for all.

Residents were also encouraged to keep connected with their loved ones through video and telephone calls. Staff both made and took an unprecedented number of telephone calls to and from family members who were naturally concerned for the safety and wellbeing of residents.

Lucy Atkinson, Registered Manager reflects on her experience during lockdown saying ‘It has certainly been a challenging and intense time for anyone working in the care sector and we have all been on a very steep learning curve. However, the safety and wellbeing of our residents means everything to us and I’m very proud of all my staff for going above and beyond to make sure that this happened.’

Sue Hogston, Head of Residential and Nursing Care outlines one positive of this experience has been seeing how quickly we can adapt and respond. Partly this has been helped by the fact that much of the red tape and the whole ‘we can’t do that because…’ has just gone away, it's very much ‘how can we make this happen?’. And this is something I really hope we can hold onto. It is really important that we take learnings from this experience and it will help us to be better prepared for future challenges. It is clear the virus has not gone away and we need to remain alert and vigilant as a team but I’m very proud of every team member and their response.