Kimberley Care Home manager: Care sector needs a "ground up" revolution
Although the full impact of the Covid-19 outbreak is yet to be determined, there have been numerous concerns aired over the terrible effect it has already had on the UK care sector. Writing for The Parliamentary Review, Nadine Vail, home manager of Kimberley Care Home in Long Sutton, Lincolnshire, discusses her experience of the pandemic to date, and her hopes that lessons can be learnt from the crisis in order to render it a springboard for a full-scale revolution of the industry.
Even after all my years in the care sector it is quite overwhelming to witness the commitment, compassion, creativity, ingenuity and support displayed from my care teams, care partnerships and local communities during these unprecedented times.
Despite the fear of the ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ implications and risks to self, families, friends and loved ones it is touching to see people take steps above and beyond to help others in need on a daily basis.
My hope is that after this crisis, there will be a time when the industry and relevant bodies come together with the support and real backing of government to carry out a ‘root and branch’ assessment of the learnings, challenges and risks experienced during the handling of the crisis, from an ‘end to end care provision’ perspective.
I hope that this action will be undertaken with the aim of taking on board the outputs and making the decisions required to transform the way care provision is approached and supported throughout the UK, with the breadth and depth to create the coherent and sustainable care platforms that our people, our residents, our communities and future generations deserve.
I believe that it is imperative that we do not let the sacrifice and hard work undertaken by all during this period fall by the wayside. We owe it to the ‘all’ to be the generation that truly revolutionises the care sector from the ground up.
As a result of this pandemic, there is an unprecedented willingness and intent to mobilise around the critical areas of care, yet there are some key challenges of note that we and other providers are still experiencing that must be addressed now and in the future.
Firstly, it is all well and good the government announcing support initiatives during this time, but the translation of this support into execution and delivery remains a key issue. Access to Personal Protective Equipment [PPE] remains a critical issue and clarity of commitments to the logistics of supply to all care homes is an absolute must.
Further to this, it is imperative that a coherent Covid-19 testing strategy is devised by the government and health authorities and that care workers are included within this strategy as a critical line of defence. In my view, priority must be placed on NHS testing as part of the discharge process if we are to protect the vulnerable in our homes and also utilise the full capability of providers to free up much needed capacity in hospitals.
The need for good and effective communication during this period also cannot be understated. There must be a coherent and operationally focused approach to communication going forward which spans government, regulatory bodies and local authorities, with the aim of clearly and time effectively ensuring that all of our collective efforts are aligned. This will help us avoid being bogged down in fear and misinformation which is sometimes generated by sound bites and social media.
Another chief concern I have is for the financial security and sustainability of care providers throughout this pandemic. During this period, we are all attempting to plan for contingencies, increase our numbers of staff and defend against outbreaks of the virus. Although for us there are numerous initiatives and support mechanisms available and we work well in tandem with our local authority in Lincolnshire, I am aware that the situation differs significantly across various regions, often with mixed degrees of success.
Understandably, the banks have been inundated with requests for help, but perhaps there is a means of prioritising care providers who are very much on the front-line during this period. This will be vital for us to secure and sustain the longevity of this crucial front in the war against Covid-19.
Another issue that has blighted the sector of late is related to the supply of basic necessities such as cleaning materials and foodstuffs. It has been a monumental challenge, given the fact that no recognised regional bulk supply firm had ever devised a clear contingency plan nor had the supply capability to deal with the sudden surge in demand that has come about during this time. Neither did any of these firms have in place the planning and contingency requirements that the care home industry demands.
Although provisions in this area are improving, they are operationally critical elements that should form part of any future reviews concerning how to improve provisions for the sector as a whole.