News | Published May 10 2020

"Life on the front line" from The Dales Nursing Home

In an exclusive interview with The Parliamentary Review, Wade Newmark, the responsible person for The Dales Nursing Home, explains how his experience of Covid-19 has been "busy and stressful".

Life on the front line in care homes has been a varied experience, depending on the location and type of care the provider is giving.

Within my home in Exeter, The Dales Nursing Home, we took action early based on sensible infection control measures. We acted well ahead of our competitors, and cocooned our homes in early March when we saw this coming. I have a fantastic team at The Dales who keep a very close eye on infection control as well as the day-to-day compliance requirements.

There is no doubt that Matt Hancock and his team were and continue to be faced with a superhuman task. A vast number of conflicting issues have all seem to have arisen at once: structural neglect, limited resources and tough choices that result in life-or-death consequences they come with. 

 The prolonged absence of our prime minister didn’t help, and everyone felt the fear and magnitude of what Team Boris faced. There remains enormous goodwill toward the government, despite the unease with what has happened so far. Within the care sector, however the following key issues have come into sharp focus in these past weeks.

The moral dilemma: Every day for our nurses and carers is both busy and stressful. Many have their own families to worry about and all have shown a selfless can-do attitude to looking after our residents and their families. The emotional collateral damage is enormous. 

While it makes sense from certain perspectives to "lock in" the elderly, their views are often the complete opposite to that of the government and the wider populace. Given how little time many of them have left on Earth, most would rather take their chances, see their loved ones and end up with Covid-19, than have to endure weeks, if not months, in lockdown.

Wooden rifles all round: No one is in any doubt that our industry was left to fend for itself for weeks on end. In the initial phase of this outbreak, the NHS had, in no uncertain terms, done its best to clear out its wards and put enormous pressure on our homes to take untested residents. 

We robustly refused. Many others did not, and are now paying a heavy price. To compound our stress, risks and costs, no one in the government had any plans to protect the two million workers and residents in social care with PPE or infection testing. 

Eight weeks into the crisis, we finally have access to PPE through the Clipper Portal. This is not as simple a solution as it might seem, however: many homes are buckling under the financial strain of paying ten times the pre-crisis price for masks, gowns, gloves and sanitiser. 

At one point, we were running an additional £900 per week in costs. Someone is making an awful lot of money out of our country’s distress. 

Lack of direction: On top of a lack of protection, we have also seen a lack of direction. 

We are accountable to three separate agencies: the Care Quality Commission, Public Health England and our local CMO at county level. At one point, we had three weeks of unclear and contradictory advice around PPE, SOP and acceptable equipment usage. 

In our region, nobody in the sector really knew which authority had the final say in any of these key areas.

What next: At the very least, care home businesses are expecting recompense for the additional costs they’ve had to bear in acquiring their own PPE at Beijing prices. In the medium term, we will need a coherent national plan regarding how to deal with the next wave of Covid-19 or any other future Sars variant.

The longer-term issues will be questions about how services are priced, commissioned, assessed and paid for on a national scale; questions that can no longer be avoided and will not go away. Regional differences in provider payments, four differing systems to fill beds and a broken inspectorate have together created an unwieldy and unsustainable framework for social care.

You can read The Dales Nursing Home's best practice article here.

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Authored by

Wade Newmark
Responsible Person at The Dales Nursing Home
May 10 2020

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