The Covid-19 pandemic has not only highlighted the incredibly valuable role of health and social care, but also the need for organisations and communities across local areas to work together to protect and care for the vulnerable.
Care homes have been particularly affected by the pandemic, but a local joint response from Nottingham West Primary Care Network (PCN) and the Primary Integrated Community Services (PICS) team has yielded positive results.
Earlier this year, Nottingham West PCN commissioned PICS to look at Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment (ReSPECT), initially focussing on local care homes across nursing, residential, learning difficulty and mental health settings.
The project was led by Jessica Waterhouse and Wendy Berridge, team leaders in the PICS Advanced Planning Team and both experienced Palliative Care Nurses.
Not long after the project had started, Covid-19 changed everything and Jessica and Wendy immediately recognised the challenges that care homes were facing.
All 33 care homes in Nottingham West were short-staffed, in some instances having 70% absence rates as a result of sickness, isolating or shielding. Managers were overwhelmed, often having to step in to care for residents while also managing all the data and guidance coming in. All the staff were having to learn new skills because visits by community nurses and GPs were reduced in order to shield the residents.
Wendy and Jess jumped into action, mobilising partners across the PCN and inspiring and encouraging the GP practices, Community Services and care home staff to come together to care for the patients, clinicians and communities within care homes.
They have worked tirelessly, assisting with training, resolving practical issues around PPE, new equipment and remote technology skills, helping with patient care and providing psychological support for staff, patients and their families.
They have also set up a Whatsapp group that any care home colleague could join, and sent out daily updates and bulletins to try and help make sense of the storm of legislation, guidance and changes that care home staff had to understand, implement and respond to. There are currently 49 members of the group – all care home management staff.
Wendy and Jess contacted care home staff daily and sent them cards and positive messages of support as morale was low and staff often felt disconnected. They also managed an appeal for donations of toiletries, and these helped residents feel connected to the outside and reassured them that they hadn’t been forgotten. They also helped tide them over until they could get their own again.
Kate Prince, Home Manager at The Herons Care Home, said: “On behalf of my team, I cannot praise Wendy and Jess enough for their support during what was the most challenging time for all care homes, including us.
“They rang three times a week, more if they felt we were struggling, and set up an amazing Whatsapp group for all the Care Homes in our area. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without them.
“They became our virtual friends, and I could ask them literally any question, no matter how daft it seemed. They were the voice of reason and calm and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. They really are amazing people.”
PICS Managing Director Alison Rounce said: “It’s made such a difference, just when the community needed it. As a non-clinician supporting clinical services, I could not feel more proud of how this has supported our care home heroes.”
In early June, all the care homes were COVID-free and staffing levels had returned to normal, but many of the changes and improvements will continue, particularly the development of the network of colleagues working in or managing care homes, which has continued to be a source of support and information for care home managers and senior staff.