The Second Phase – battling COVID-19 in Nursing homes.
As soon as COVID-19 hit, the UK saw a massive response of support from healthcare professionals returning to their registers. They did this willingly to prop up the NHS, flatten the curve and reduce the pressure on their colleagues.
The Second Phase of the battle against the virus is now underway, and its focus is to support Nursing and Care Homes.
What is the crisis in this sector and why are the statistics more heart breaking in these areas?
Allow me to take a few moments to explain a few of the issues the Social Care sector is facing:
What homes need is a ‘can do’ approach to support. One where red tape and bureaucracy don’t get in the way and don’t prevent everyone from heading in the same direction
1. The Physical Health Challenges
Mortality is higher in nursing homes because they house the nation’s most vulnerable population. This is not simply due to the age of the residents, it is also related to the fact that a large percentage are also enduring a number of underlying medical conditions and have immune systems which are already compromised. It is not surprising therefore that an event such as the COVID-19 outbreak will have – and has had – devastating fatal consequences.
2. The Mental Health Challenges
Most care homes provide accommodation for people with Dementia, who may feel the need to wander or are often confused even within familiar surroundings. They have an urge to almost constantly walk around and to freely touch everything they find – including the many surfaces within the home which are also regularly touched by others. In these settings, any control measures designed to protect against the virus even reverse isolation – could prove difficult, if not impossible, to apply.
3. The Challenge with Staffing
There has been a long-standing lack of support for the care home sector. A culture has been allowed to develop, one where it has been portrayed as being somehow ‘inferior’. The reasons for this are unclear and I’d personally like to explore the origins as soon as I have the time and opportunity to do so. The main outcome however is that nurses often believe that it is a less desirable area to work within. The sector has therefore consistently found itself to be short of qualified nursing staff – despite the fact that in my time there, it is the place where I have come across some of the most caring and dynamic nurses.
Whilst care facilities are coping with these difficult challenges, they are still also often battling against the negative ‘closed culture’ stories which have hit the press in the relatively recent past. Staff and Managers are now, more than ever before, cautious of raising concerns about their own ability to cope, overwhelmed by the thought of reaching out to the outside world – and not really knowing what kind of response they will receive.
For many years now Health and Social Care have created many models to encourage integrated care – yet the divide still remains. Much of the help offered to nursing homes is in the form of a review or an audit and, whilst the results can be really informative and helpful, it still leaves the responsibility with the carers. This simply leads to them having to work even harder to raise the standards and meet even more deadlines.
What homes need is a ‘can do’ approach to support. One where red tape and bureaucracy don’t get in the way and don’t prevent everyone from heading in the same direction.
The Second Phase NHS response to COVID-19 in nursing homes requires this positive, modern model to be applied, ensuring that everyone is on the same footing and are treated as equals – in other words, an environment where there is a mutual respect between all sectors.
If there was ever a time to introduce a truly integrated model of care then this is it and I’m optimistic that it can be done. We need strength, support, numbers and respect to face the this second phase of the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.