Running a care home during a pandemic

Lesley Gamm

Back in April, Lesley Gamm, Service Manager at Gloucestershire House in Cheltenham gave this first-hand account of life in the frontline of social care at the height of the pandemic.

Blog updated: 7 July 2020

The Prime Minister's recent comments around care homes failing to follow proper procedures amid the coronavirus crisis were a shock to many who work in social care.

Our Executive Director of UK Services, Hugh Fenn, said:

"This ill-judged and very disappointing comment by the Prime Minister has understandably caused a lot of upset.  Frontline staff like ours have been heroic and selfless in keeping residents with complex conditions safe and vital services running.

"The reality is the threat from this virus in social care was considered too late in government planning, with most focus on the NHS. At key stages, the guidelines were vague, PPE almost impossible to source, local resilience forums were ineffective and testing came far too late. Against this background, the achievements of social care staff have been all the more remarkable."

The impact of coronavirus on a care home

The opportunity to test staff would be invaluable. Like many services, we could struggle with staff numbers through self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

We are in a privileged position at Gloucestershire House. It’s a wonderful place to work. Our therapy facilities bring in extra revenue and are becoming well known locally.

A women in a purple top wearing a Leonard Cheshire lanyard

We provide hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. We also have a sensory room, but right now, they’re all on hold.

That doesn’t mean we lack the same community spirit. But for the time being it’s within the confines of our home and supported living environment.

Gloucestershire testing capacity

People who live with us are particularly vulnerable if they catch an infection and their well-being is our number one priority. We haven’t managed to have any staff tested due to the limited level available locally. One resident has been tested in the hospital however with a negative result.

We sympathise with our colleagues in Gloucestershire County Council. Capacity is extremely low and the situation they’re in is tough. We have had to consider travelling as far as Worcester for testing after being given the go-ahead by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The opportunity to test staff would be invaluable. Like many services, we could struggle with staff numbers through self-isolation. We need to accelerate the process of people returning to work.

Social care isn't just for older people

The pandemic has thrust the social care sector into the spotlight. The work we do as designated ‘key workers’ is rightly being acknowledged and respected on a par with NHS workers.

I still think the wider perception of social care is focused on older people not disabled adults of working age. Gloucestershire House is a case in point as we support younger disabled people between 25-65. I hope this is an opportunity to help people understand the work we do and who we’re doing it for.

Sourcing PPE

As an organisation, we had to be creative acquiring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). During the pandemic, our PPE costs have increased to £400,000 a month. Our small, but dedicated team and fleet of minibuses have embarked on delivery runs across the UK.