As we continue to move with some trepidation into 2021, through Lockdown 3 and further Covid-related challenges, I want to take a moment to reflect on 2020, and the devastating impact the government’s handling of the virus has had on our care home communities.
By early March, it was apparent that the UK, along with the rest of the world had a crisis on its hands. At the time, our fear and frustration in the care sector was based mostly on lack of clarity, lack of guidance and lack of life-saving PPE supplies.
Our overriding priority became the protection of our residents and staff. Like the rest of the sector, we implemented measures designed to prevent infection entering and spreading through our homes.
Sadly, like so many across the country, whilst we at Pelham House were successful for many weeks, the virus eventually found its way in, killing nearly half our residents, infecting many of our staff and devastating our community. I am convinced that this was as a result of a policy of sending people back to care homes without Covid test results. I spent many years working in the NHS, and fully understood the need in order to free up hospital beds – but what angered me at the time, and still angers me now, was that we were given no option, and little support.
It was then that we discovered just how low in the government’s list of priorities care homes really were.
Telling our story
In the course of my attempts to access the advice and support we so desperately needed, our plight came to the attention of local and national media. BBC’s Panorama picked up our story, amongst others.
Panorama – The Forgotten Frontline https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000lbq0
Since then, like many other homes, we have been working to protect our remaining residents and rebuild our community.
Where do we go from here?
By mid-2020, we, like many other care homes, were facing an empty bed crisis. As we move into 2021, care sector analysts are predicting that by November this year, care home occupancy will return to pre-pandemic levels.
For that to happen, the government needs to make good on its promise to prioritise vaccinations for care home residents – and for frontline staff in care homes as well as in the NHS.
We’ve all learned a great deal about Covid-19 in the last 12 months, much of it the hard way. Since this virus is going to be around for some time yet, a viable vaccination programme is the best chance of survival for some of our most vulnerable people – the elderly in care homes. It is encouraging to see that the recently published vaccination strategy puts them at the top of the list, but only time will tell whether this promise is kept.
Photo by Ulrich Derboven on Unsplash