An update from Vincent Hart,
Director of Operations on Coronavirus (COVID-19)


Updated: 7 January 2020

Once more, we find ourselves in a national lockdown and told to stay at home wherever possible. 

Some of the recent press coverage has suggested that there is a blanket ban on all visits. This is not the case and not the approach we will be following at Westward Care.

The latest guidance confirms that visits to residents can take place with arrangements involving substantial screens, in pods and window visits.

In person visits are discouraged and only allowed where deemed essential such as in end-of-life situations.

For clarity we will not be changing our current visitor policy. The arrangements in place at all locations enable compliance with the latest guidance. We would always ask that you choose the least risky option for a visit. The new Covid strain is up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain. Please bear this in mind when thinking about visiting and which type of visit to request.

A range of visits can be facilitated including phone and video calls, garden visits, window visits and pod visits. We will also facilitate in room visits where it has been agreed that this is the most appropriate type of visit for the resident and their health and wellbeing. We will always enable compassionate end-of-life visits.

The latest government guidance does confirm that ‘No visits will be permitted in the event of an
outbreak, unless absolutely essential again for end-of-life compassionate visits’.
If an in-room visit has been deemed essential this would be subject to a negative PCR (Covid) test. Ideally the visit should then be arranged within 72 hours.

In Leeds there is support available to secure a PCR test. The General Manager at your relevant location can provide further details.

You will be aware that the Covid vaccination programme has started to be rolled out. We have been told that all residents and staff (who consent) will be vaccinated by the end of January 2021.

If a resident has or is suspected to have Covid then they will not be able to be vaccinated. If there is a suspected or confirmed outbreak, then any planned vaccinations could need to be rescheduled for all residents at the location. This would be a travesty if it were to happen. 

As more people receive the vaccine, we will move closer to a position where the visiting guidance can begin to be relaxed.

If you have any further questions, please speak to the General Manager at our relevant locations.

Thank you as always for your continued support and patience.
Vincent Hart
 


Updated: 4 December 2020

In-room visits


The government has issued guidance to care homes on testing visitors to facilitate indoor visits.  

We have serious concerns with the guidance - specifically the accuracy of the Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) compared to the PCR tests that we currently use for staff and resident testing).

In addition, the resource required to implement the suggested testing regime (we would need to assign 2-5 full-time staff to facilitate testing) and its potential impact on the safety of staff, residents and visitors. 

We want to enable in room visits and will be implementing weekly testing for visitors using the PCR test. The PCR test is more accurate than the LFT but still not 100% accurate so we will continue to employ additional infection control measures, including requiring visitors to wear appropriate PPE. 

We are seeking to obtain the PCR test kits via the NHS and will commence testing as soon as they are available. Please note that if we cannot obtain the test kits this will prevent us from implementing our process as soon as we want to. 
  • In-Room visits will still need to be booked as they will still require staff to complete certain activity at the time of the visit. 
  • Visits will initially be for a period of no more than 1 hour.  We will try and facilitate 2 visits per week for each visitor, but this will not always be possible.  
  • Designated visitors will not be able to visit at the same time. 
  • Visitors will be shown how to correctly wear and remove PPE – it must not be removed at any time during the visit.
  • If you want to bring in certain items for your friend/relative they will need to be sanitised or quarantined for 72 hours. This is to reduce the opportunity of the virus being passed unknowingly to your loved ones. 
  • You can hold hands (wearing gloves) during the visit. In wearing gloves and sanitising hands before putting your gloves on you will mitigate the risk of Covid transmission.  Please avoid hugs and kisses.
  • Weekly testing via the home must take place for you to continue in-room visits
  • We have a separate Visiting Process Guidance sheet which can be obtained directly by contacting staff at the location you wish visit.

The testing process for In-room visits

  • Once we have the tests secured, we will contact family or friends and let them know when the next testing day is, once we have the tests secured.  
  • The test is sent to a laboratory for analysis and takes usually between 2-3 days for results to be received.  
  • Occasionally we do not get results back within a week or they are returned as inconclusive. If this were to happen, we would not be able to allow an in room visit in that week. 
  • If potential visitors return a positive test they will have to isolate in line with current guidance. In addition, we would not re-test for 12 weeks and individuals would not be able to have an in room visit in that time. The guidance we currently have is that anyone who tests positive will still test positive in the following 12 weeks.
Our priority will always be to ensure that residents receive the care and support they need. We would ask for your patience and understanding if the staffing situation becomes stretched and we must reduce the visiting arrangements. 

You are still able to book other visits which are not in-room if you prefer to choose a less risky option.

If there is any change in the guidance issued to us, we will need to review our visiting arrangements accordingly.  This would include a cessation of visiting if there is a spike in the virus locally or an outbreak in the service. Please note an outbreak is 2 cases and with us testing more people there is potential for more positive test results. 
 

Updated: 13 November 2020

Following the revised government guidance issued to Care Homes last week at the start of the current lockdown the ’new guidance’ does not significantly alter our current visiting arrangements given the steps we had already taken to facilitate visits at each location. We understand how important visits are to everyone and are working to maintain visiting options.

In summary all residents and families have been updated with the following: 

 - In line with the new guidance we have been updating the risk assessments that are in place.

 - We will continue to consult with families, where neessary in determining the least risky visiting option.

 - We will manage risk by encouraging telephone and video calls as a first point of contact. The next least risky option would be a garden visit followed by a window visit. As both involve outdoor visiting this keeps the risk of transmission of covid-19 low.  As the weather becomes more inclement, we would consider an increased use of the designated visiting areas.

 - We are introducing floor to ceiling screens in a few of these areas as required under the new guidance. The benefit of introducing the screens is that these areas can continue to be used in an outbreak situation.

 - End of Life visits are especially important, and we recognise the need to continue to provide compassionate visits in all such circumstances. When and how to commence these will be a judgement for the local General Manager often with advice from the GP and other healthcare professionals.

 - Where essential visits need are taking place we have restricted visitor numbers to a maximum of 2 people in the designated areas and a thorough clean is taking place between visits.

 - In some circumstances where there is a health or wellbeing reason we are accomodating an 'in room' visit. Such visits must be deemed essential and we must judge whether the circumstances are similar to the essential visits required when someone is deemed to be end of life.

 - Where visitors will be entering the premises for an ‘in room’ or apartment visit, we will be continuing with the single designated visitor for each resident. This is in line with government guidance and is to limit the number of visitors to mitigate the risk of virus transmission.

 - We are exploring the opportunity of adding these designated visitors to our weekly staff testing schedule. If testing is possible, we will be able to relax the frequency and duration of these essential visits.

 - Appropriate PPE must always be worn during the visit and social distancing and hand hygiene must also be maintained to continue to protect everyone

 - We are continuing with a booking system for visits as we can only facilitate a finite number of visits each day.

We would like to thank everyone for their understanding, patience and cooperation, it is very much appreciated by the local staff teams. 

If you require any further help or guidance regarding our visiting arrangements, please contact the General Manager at the relevant location.
 

Updated: 4 August 2020

The Government recently issued updated guidance on visiting Care Homes. As yet they have still not issued guidance for supported living however with many of our residents owning their own Apartments we have decided that we will relax the visiting arrangements at all Westward Care premises as we believe the supported living guidance will be very similar to the guidance issued for care homes. 

At the time of writing we have not received test kits to enable weekly staff testing and monthly testing for residents. Regular testing will be a key plank of our risk minimisation strategy. In its absence we have decided to introduce indoor visiting but in a slow and controlled way. We currently remain Covid free at all locations and do not wish to relax current measures too quickly and trigger an outbreak.

All residents and their families have been issued with greater details setting out the steps we have and will be taking to improve visiting arrangements as lockdown measures are relaxed.

Indoor visits will commence on Monday 17th August 2020. This will allow work to be completed locally to ensure visits are as safe and enjoyable as possible. Weather permitting we are requesting that visitors continue to make arrangements to enjoy garden and window visits as much as possible. The current guidance is that outdoor visits are much safer for all concerned.

For indoor visits we will be establishing a visiting area/room. The area/room selected will minimise visitor ‘travel’ through communal areas of the home. This will avoid contact with staff and residents and areas commonly used. 

To begin with we will also look to restrict the overall number of visitors on the premises at any one time. To this end, we will be asking people to book an appointment and to choose one designated visitor. The designated visitor must then be the same person each week. This will ensure that we have as few people as possible coming into the premises which in turn will limit the risk of a Covid outbreak.

Visitors will be required to wear PPE and maintain a 2 metre distance at all times.

Where a resident is unable to go to the designated visiting area or where the resident’s mental health and wellbeing would benefit from a visit to their room/apartment we will aim to accommodate this. Clearly this presents a higher risk for the facility and so an individual risk assessment will need to be completed. 

To begin with we will accommodate one indoor visit each week. The visit will be for ½ an hour. This will then allow the area/room to be sanitised before the next visitor uses the space.

We will continue to accommodate garden visits and window visits wherever possible. These will still need to be booked and we will do our best to accomodate visitors preferred day and time.
 


JULY 2020 update

I am writing to provide you with an update on how we are facilitating visitors during the current Covid-19 pandemic across Westward Care's locations.

We are constantly reviewing the measures we have in place regarding visitors in line with current Government guidance. We will always seek to adjust our measures as early as possible as the Government advice eases Covid-19 restrictions.
 
Our current measures are not due to change in light of the relaxations announced for the 4th July or 1st August.

Any future adjustments we can make will be made whilst at the same time maintaining the continued safety of everyone connected with Westward Care. 

All our locations have, since the ‘lockdown’ commenced, kept people in touch by facilitating phone and video calls. We issued each service with new equipment to maintain this vital link with loved ones and friends. Our staff teams have worked incredibly hard in the last few months to support all our residents who needed support to make either phone or video calls. This will continue as appropriate.

More recently we commenced garden visits where our locations have the external space to accommodate them. In addition we have been able to organise face to face visits where the resident remains inside the scheme and family or friends are seated outside, opening French doors, windows and similar where possible.

We recognise the importance and wellbeing benefits of these visits and will continue to do all we can to make them happen. Current social distancing measures must be applied to all visits, including garden visits that are organised.

We do understand that the current visiting arrangements are still some way from the ‘ideal’ we would all prefer to return to but they are necessary at the current time. Where the environment permits, we have invited some of our entertainers return and I know how warmly received this has been by many residents.

We are making preparations to allow hairdressers to return from 4th July in line with the Government guidance and mitigation measures to ensure all of our locations remain Covid secure.

Where a resident requires support from staff with any visit please work with us by ensuring these are booked ahead of time with the General Manager. Staff teams continue to be extremely busy but with your cooperation and patience, we can make the arrangements work for everyone. To arrange a supported visit please contact the home to secure an appointment time. To accommodate everyone who wishes to see their family and friends we would ask that visits are kept to 30 minutes duration. We would also ask that to help us maintain social distancing guidelines, visitor numbers should ideally be no more than 2 people from the same household.
 
Finally we are investigating opportunities to provide visits during inclement weather. This is very much governed by the scheme environments. We are looking at how and where we can provide a suitable space with protective screens or similar adjustments to enable visitors and residents to continue to meet safely and protected from the elements. 

Please continue to bear with us and thank you for your continued patience and support at this time.

Yours sincerely,
Vincent Hart, Director of Operations, Westward Care
"I love my job - I think it's important when working in care to not look at it like a job - it's my passion."
Antonia
Senior Care Assistant, Southlands