People working at a number of different organisations across the BSW Partnership have shared how an approach to working together has helped to prevent and manage outbreaks of Covid in care homes during the past year.
A joined up approach to working together has seen teams from local authority adult social care, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and Safeguarding departments, district nurses, public health teams, the Care Quality Commission, Virgin Care, Public Health England, GPs, BSW CCG and care home providers develop joint strategies to help protect vulnerable residents and staff.
At the start of the pandemic teams came together to provide care homes and other settings for vulnerable people with infection prevention and control (IP&C) support, help with testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) usage and guidance for safe visiting.
Judith Westcott, Senior Commissioning Manager – Community Health and Care Services for Bath and North East Somerset Council and BSW CCG said the joint working had been effective in helping to co-ordinate a response and working in partnership with homes for the common goal of preventing or reducing the spread of infections and safeguarding the health and wellbeing of residents and staff.
“We held regular meetings, shared good practice and came up with creative solutions for care homes across BSW at a time when guidance was changing quickly and was often not as detailed as required” she said.
“During Covid our support was really very intensive. We were in touch with care homes daily to gather case numbers and to provide support to the homes for IP&C.
We helped with training, contract tracing and gave advice on isolation guidance. We also held outbreak control meetings to investigate and try and reduce transmission.”
“We were also able to get the government’s IP&C funds straight to the care providers as well as work with them as a group to help with funding for deep cleans of care homes and recruitment campaigns.”
Now Covid case numbers are falling and restrictions on visiting care homes beginning to ease, the multi-disciplinary teams have shifted their focus to providing wider support to care homes.
“We’re using the lessons we learnt during the first wave to offer ongoing support to make sure homes are able to offer safe testing for visitors,” says Judith. “We’re also offering refresher training, training visitors on use of PPE and helping with staff wellbeing and mental health.”
“Vaccination encouragement with care home staff is another area of focus and we’re looking at reasons for reluctance, holding webinars, talking to staff face to face and finding vaccine champions within care homes for a peer led approach.”
Dr. Dan Hubbard, a GP from St Chad’s Surgery in Midsomer Norton said the approach had proved extremely effective.
“The situation in care homes during the first outbreak was very challenging but once this multi-disciplinary team was put in place, we were able to offer a much more coordinated response in terms of better IP&C support and staff being more informed and motivated to help and more prepared in terms of effectively controlling an outbreak.”