Dear team members, residents, relatives, and friends,
As the number of cases of COVID-19 is rising, and the government has introduced a new local COVID risk tiered system, we would like to give you an update on the visiting policy within our care homes.
We understand how important it is for our residents to see their loved ones. Whilst the COVID-19 virus remains a risk to the population, we need to ensure that we do our best to keep our residents safe whilst allowing as much contact with friends and family as possible.
With guidance from the government, local health authorities, and organisations such as the Care Provider Alliance (CPA) and in line with strict local protocols, we have been able to facilitate visiting in our care homes. These visits have included:
- Garden Visits
- Window Visits
- Internal Rooms Visits, for those receiving “End of Life Care” or in extreme circumstances
Whilst employing and developing group-wide visiting policies we have also tried to consider individual needs by conducting risk assessments and developing tailored visiting care plans where appropriate.
As we move into the winter months, it is clear that garden and window visits will be limited. With that in mind, we are creating dedicated sheltered visiting spaces within each of our care homes. This facility varies between care homes. For some, it will be an outdoor visiting pod and for others, we will create a dedicated internal visiting space with a separate entrance for visitors and residents to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
We hope to have these spaces available within the coming month and their use will continue to be governed by government guidance, protocols, and policies.
Current government guidance on visiting can be found:
Any visits will be at the discretion of the Home Manager, who will approve all visits on a case by case basis. Visits will need to be conducted in line with strict policies and protocols available from the care homes.
Whilst we will do what we can to facilitate visits safely, the majority of contact will need to continue to take place remotely. Residents will continue to make regular use of telephone and video calls (via Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, and FaceTime).
We will also closely monitor local infection rates with the support of local infection control teams. Should certain areas experience spikes in coronavirus cases, they may be required to move between local COVID alert levels. In such circumstances, it may be necessary to suspend visits to individual care homes. Such decisions will be made in partnership with local health protection and infection control teams.
I hope this gives you the confidence that we are doing all that we can to enable visits to continue at our care homes, whilst ensuring there is no compromise to the safety and wellbeing of your loved ones and our staff.
If you have any questions, please contact your Home Manager or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Sanjiv Patel & Mrs Sita Foxon
Westgate Healthcare Group
Maintaining a Safe Environment
We continue to implement a number of measures to keep a safe environment for our staff and residents. As you will know, we were one of the first care groups to restrict non-essential visits to our care homes and put this in place prior to the government advising it. In addition to maintaining this restriction, some other key initiatives include:
- All residents and staff members have been tested for COVID-19, and we continue to follow government guidance in regards to safely managing this and the results
- Daily temperature checks for all staff, residents, and visitors
- Thorough infection control procedures in place, including use of PPE and handwashing (we have faced no shortage of PPE or cleaning supplies during the pandemic)
- Infection control training in place for all staff, plus regular audits of procedures and handwashing
- Heightened cleaning procedures including more regular deep cleaning
- Social distancing policy in place for all care homes
- 14-day precautionary isolation for all new residents who come to live in the care home
- Testing all new residents for COVID-19 prior to release from precautionary isolation
- Implementation of isolation procedures for any resident who shows any potential COVID-19 symptoms
- Staff members are monitored daily and are following NHS guidelines, being careful to not attend work and to follow isolation and testing guidelines if they, or anyone in their household displays COVID-19 symptoms
- Staff members are not traveling to and from work in uniform, but are changing into uniform prior to starting their shift in the home, and then changing back into outdoor clothing before leaving. Some homes are also providing laundry services for staff uniforms
- Staff members are limiting what they are bringing into the care home and all belongings are being kept in a designated area away from residents
- Delivery drivers are not entering the care homes and are delivering items to designated delivery points
Whilst we have had to apply a policy of restricting visitors and social distancing in our care homes for safety reasons, this does mean that residents will inevitably spend more time in their rooms. We are aware of the impact this can have on their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing and our staff teams are introducing fun and innovative ways to keep our residents engaged and connected with those important to them. Please check our Facebook accounts for updates on what is going on in our care homes!
We have invested in additional iPads, Facebook Portals and other facilities to support our residents to video call their loved ones and to remain in contact with their local community. In addition, when the weather is fine, we continue to support residents to access the outdoors as well as internal communal areas, though we do this whilst maintaining social distancing protocols. We can assure you that we are continually monitoring the wellbeing of all our residents and where required we will provide access to additional support for them, whether it is from their trusted care team members or through increased contact with their community, family, and friends.
We are constantly looking at additional ways that we can further support our team members through this challenging time. We are holding regular team catch-up meetings and have provided our team with details of the benefits, discounts, and mental health support functions available to them.
As we see our team members provide further flexibility and support during this pandemic, we have seen an increase in the use of the ‘Westgate Wellness Staff Fund’, which is a pot of money for each care home to use as they wish to treat and care for their staff teams. Some lovely initiatives so far have included ‘Thank you Thursday’ where staff and residents show appreciation for each other, provision of meals and snacks for the team, the purchase of additional treats for the ‘Happy Box’ which staff members can access as part of our recognition scheme, and the ordering of regular takeaways and purchases of gifts and flowers to recognise team members who have gone above and beyond.
As a new initiative, we are also thrilled to be able to offer a Blue Light Card to all of our team members. The Blue Light Card is a discount service created specifically for those working in social care, the NHS, and emergency services. For further information on the discount service, please click on the weblink below:
At the forefront of our minds is the need to ensure that there is a clear way of communicating to you, the public, about what we are doing at Westgate Healthcare in these unprecedented circumstances. This not only centres around our strategy to combat COVID-19 within our care homes, but also to highlight to you all the wonderful things our staff team is doing to ensure the wellbeing of our residents, keeping them motivated, stimulated and active, whilst maintaining key social distancing guidance.
We have adopted a multi-modal approach which includes:
- Regular updates on our website about our approach to managing COVID-19
- Regular additions to our website and social media pages in regards to current stories from our care homes
- The use of telephones and video technology such as FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom to facilitate one to one interactions between residents and their family and friends
- We have and continue to hold Zoom video conference calls for our relatives, with the Home Managers and Directors, so that we can give you virtual ‘face to face’ updates and answer your questions
- We encourage letter writing from the local community to our residents and will shortly be launching a campaign to promote this
- We will be sending out e-mail bulletins with updates for each care home
Under current Government guidance, we aim to facilitate regular testing for COVID-19 to all of our staff and residents. Current guidance asks for regular testing to be provided for all staff and residents who are symptom-free through a specialised government portal. For further information please see the weblink below:
Staff and residents demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19 will be required to be tested immediately and to go into isolation as per the guidance. For further information please see the weblink below:
We continue to follow guidance from Public Health England, the Department of Health, other bodies and have regular ‘COBRA’ style daily meetings with the senior management team to discuss our approach to any changes announced.
Please see below current guidance on care home provision, and guidance on infection control, which Westgate Healthcare is complying with: