Barchester Healthcare and the UK Coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus

This page was last updated on 16th October. 

To read our latest communications for England, Wales and Jersey, please click here.

To read our latest update regarding the new Tier system and visiting in England, please click here.

To read out latest communications for Scotland, please click here.

The health, safety, and wellbeing of our residents, patients and staff is always our top priority and we are continuing with our robust and comprehensive response to Coronavirus. Our plans are kept under regular review and are updated as and when advised by the public health authorities.

We are welcoming new residents and patients into our care homes and hospitals, so please give your local Barchester care home or hospital a call if you are looking for care or need any further help. We want to assure you that when we admit new residents and patients we have clear protocols in place to ensure that it is appropriate for them to move in. We also ensure that any new residents and patients coming into our homes and hospitals, whether from a local hospital or the community, have been tested in advance and are negative COVID-19.

In order to reassure you, this page details the latest guidance from Barchester Healthcare about the protocols that we have implemented in our homes and hospitals. This information is intended for Barchester Healthcare residents, patients, staff and any visitors to our homes and hospitals.

For comprehensive information about the coronavirus itself, please visit either the Public Health EnglandPublic Health WalesHealth Protection Scotland, or Public Health Jersey.

Our current visiting guidelines for Barchester Healthcare homes or hospitals in England, Wales and Jersey

As always, we are closely following Government guidance. Our priority is to maintain necessary infection control measures in our homes and hospitals during this time and therefore are enabling visiting for booked and planned outdoor and window visits only, in areas that are not restricted due to local lockdown measures or public health restrictions.  We are doing our very best to keep the infection out of our homes and hospitals, and therefore have made a number of decisions regarding who can visit indoors, which was already very limited.   For the essential visits from healthcare professionals we are doing our best to ensure that a negative COVID-19 test result is in place, and we will continue to enable indoor visiting for loved ones needing a compassionate visit at the end of life, which we know is so vitally important.

For those able to have an outdoor or window visit, we offer each resident at least one visit per week for at least 30 minutes. The home or hospital will keep you updated in relation to the sign off and planning of indoor visits for those unable to receive outdoor or window visits. In order to prepare for winter we are currently in the process of introducing designated indoor visiting rooms to enable those much valued visits to continue in a safe environment for all.

Please note, the General Manager or Hospital Director may postpone visits at any time without notice, should they feel necessary, for the safety of all, or as instructed by government or public health guidance. This may result in visits being cancelled at short notice, but rest assured we will do our best to give as much notice as possible. We are in the process of launching an online visitor booking system in a phased approach, for both indoor and outdoor visiting. You will be receiving communication regarding this, which will enable you to book visits online for those able, and enable us to manage the volume of visitors and track and trace in a more co-ordinated way. If you do not have access to the internet there will be an option to telephone to secure a visiting slot.

Please be assured that we are working hard to ensure that where possible, visiting can continue throughout the winter.  The designated visiting room that is being introduced is similar to a living room with comfortable furnishings, and internal heating to create a welcoming and warm environment for you.  It is also hygienic and sealed to prevent transference of the virus, and therefore has an intercom system fitted so you will be able to hear your loved one clearly, and engage in conversation. We have had really great feedback on these already, and we hope you enjoy them throughout the coming months. The General Manager or Hospital Director will be in touch to tell you when, and if, this room will be available.  In the meantime we are still enabling outdoor visiting where possible.

Update for visiting care homes in England and new Tier system

The Government in England has introduced a new Tier system to determine levels of restrictions in different communities and we wanted to update you on what this means for us and our care homes, and particularly for you on visiting loved ones.

At ‘Medium’ COVID alert level, visiting is still allowed subject to the current conditions that are in place, which enables outdoor visiting for up to 2 people, adhering to 2 metres social distancing, and where we have designated visiting rooms indoors, these are still able to be used and accessed.

At ‘High’ and ‘Very High’ COVID alert level, visiting is no longer allowed unless it is for an essential visit for end of life. 

We hope you appreciate the reasoning behind us needing to follow this guidance, when our main responsibility is to keep our residents, patients and staff as safe as possible, and we ask that you please support our teams in adhering to this. 

Our current visiting guidelines for Barchester Healthcare homes or hospitals in Scotland

We are conscious that there has been updated guidance on visiting care homes in Scotland from the Scottish Government and further to this the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who clarified that guidance was not mandatory, and that it was for care homes to form their own judgement in the light of the circumstances, and therefore we felt it important to clarify our position to you.

It is vital to ensure that we are resuming any visiting safely, and we are authorised to do what our risk assessment permits. Mindful of our responsibility in keeping the most vulnerable people in society as safe as possible, and with a backdrop of a steady increase in the prevalence of the virus in the wider population, the current government guidelines on not associating with other households, the lack of testing available to visitors, and the risk that a significant rise in indoor visiting would pose for our dedicated staff, we are moving with great caution on this.

As you know we have been working hard to ensure that you can visit as safely as possible, and we know many of you are enjoying outdoor visiting and we are working hard to introduce designated visiting rooms for the winter.  However, for those residents not able to have an outdoor visit due to lack of mobility this has been difficult.  Therefore we will enable a designated visitor for those residents who are not able to have outdoor visits.  In this case the potential visit will be risk-assessed and the visit will be supervised, ensuring that social distancing is adhered to.  At this point touching and personal support is too much of a risk, and compromises the safety of our residents, and this is not something that we are going to enable to happen.  It is also important that we are able to manage this appropriately, and therefore will be enabling these indoor visits for 30 mins only and they will be supervised.

A further element to clarify is that the Government guidance now allows for 6 people to attend outdoor visits including children under 18. As we are allowing more than one resident to have an outdoor visit at any given time, we would ask that visiting is for a maximum of 3 people from up to 2 separate households and unfortunately no children under the age of 11 years, to ensure that we don’t have too many people in the outdoor space at any given time, and that social distancing can be adhered to.

As mentioned above we are introducing visiting rooms, enabling outdoor visits where possible, and essential compassionate visits which we know are hugely important.  We continue to balance the wellbeing of our staff, residents and patients with their safety, with the backdrop of an increasing spread of the virus in many communities.

Guidance for visiting a Barchester Healthcare home or hospital

If you are required to make an essential visit to a Barchester Healthcare home or hospital it is important that you do so safely and in a way that minimises the risk of infection to our residents, patients and staff. Therefore, before visiting and whilst on site, please ensure you comply with our meet & greet protocol upon arrival and follow this guidance:

  • Do not visit if you are currently self-isolating, have tested positive or experienced symptoms of Covid-19 in the past 14 days
  • Hand washing - It is important that you wash your hands thoroughly before you visit the care home or hospital, and on arrival as well as regularly if you enter the home or hospital. Please make sure you wash your hands for a minimum or 20 seconds, using either hot water and soap or 60% alcohol sanitiser gel. The NHS has a video guide to effective handwashing, which you can see here
  • We will also ask to take your temperature. For some visits indoors when appropriate we may provide you with personal protection equipment (PPE) that must be worn at all times. In addition, a staff member may escort you to the relevant area and back again

If you are visiting outdoors please follow all guidance issued in advance and displayed during your visit, this includes maintaining social distancing at all times.

Protecting our residents, patients, and staff

Many of you have asked us what our approach is to ensuring that our staff and residents are kept safe and well. As you know we have been at the forefront of testing, as we believe this is the best way to keep our residents, patients and staff as safe as possible. In England we are testing staff every week and our residents every 28 days along with new staff members before starting work with us.  In Wales and Scotland testing for residents is happening on an adhoc basis and more routinely where there is an outbreak, and testing takes places generally every fortnight for staff members. In Jersey we are testing monthly due to very low case numbers of Covid-19. As you know we believe, that until a vaccine is available, this is the best way we can protect our residents, patients and staff. You may have heard in the news recently that whilst there is plenty of testing kits, there are issues with capacity in the testing laboratories, which is causing issues for the volume of testing, and this has impacted us. We are pleased to be able to report that we have had reassurance from the Department of Health and Social Care that this issue is going to be resolved imminently.

We are also working hard to be part of a research programme on antibody testing, with 500 staff having had this test already to understand the relationship between antigen and antibody testing results.  This may help us understand risk going forward.  In addition to this we are excited to be part of a small pilot with 3 homes to look at something called ‘Lateral flow testing’, which is looking at on site testing with results back within 30 minutes, which could further enhance our ability to keep our residents and staff safe, and our hope would be that it could enable further visiting.

Our staff are all trained in infection control and are vigilant to the symptoms of COVID-19.  We have clear processes to follow is a resident, patient or member of staff show such symptoms including isolation wherever necessary in line with government advice.

Should your loved one display symptoms or test positive to Coronavirus, we would call and discuss the situation with you personally.

Keeping our residents physically and mentally active

We are very aware that an important part of living in a care home or hospital is being able to socialise and enjoy physical, mental and spiritual activity that is vital for overall wellbeing, and we are delighted that our weekly activity plans going to our homes and hospitals, have great new ways of keeping everyone active, including a number of virtual activities whilst ensuring that the group activities are smaller, adhering to physical distancing advice, and that cleanliness routines are implemented. Our residents and patients are thoroughly enjoying this.

Our staff

Many of you have written to us to thank our amazing staff who are working tirelessly to ensure you and your loved ones are kept safe.  Thank you so much for doing this, it means such a lot to them and we are ensuring that these comments, whether on social media, through our helpline or to management, are fed back. Human kindness has never been so important, and our spirits have been lifted by hearing and seeing the hard work and professionalism that is happening every day.  Thank you so much for all your kind words, it means a lot to all of us, and please be assured this gets shared with our great teams.

We are proud to say that we are surrounded by a professional, skilled, dedicated, and compassionate team who are willing to put the care of our residents and patients first. We have been truly humbled by seeing everyone work together using their expertise, and positive attitude to do the right thing. If you have had a great experience please do leave a review on carehome.co.uk or Google, you can also email us at feedback@barchester.com, we share all of your lovely comments with our team members.

Monitoring Standards of Care

As we take a cautious and phased approach to managing COVID-19, we are allowing limited numbers of internal teams into our services for example our Regional Directors, Quality Improvement and Hospitality team members.  There are very stringent protocols for these members of staff to follow, including fortnightly testing for COVID-19, and infection control protocols.  We believe that this is the right approach for ensuring that the care we provide is to the highest standard, whilst balancing the safety of our residents, patients and staff.  We will be monitoring the situation carefully.  The regulators are also starting to undertake inspections in our homes and hospitals.  We have continued to have resident meetings as usual and we are having virtual relatives meetings where possible.

People living with Dementia 

As you can probably appreciate this is most difficult for our residents living with dementia, and we have implemented guidance from our Director of Dementia Care, who has been virtually supporting our well trained teams in the homes and hospitals, to implement the  guidance on how to help our residents and patients with such things as handwashing, for example.  It is all about the little things to calm and keep distress levels down.  For example whilst much of the country has been singing happy birthday whilst washing their hands we know this will confuse our residents living with dementia, and so know to sing a song familiar to them to encourage them.  

Personal Protective Equipment

Please be assured that, we continue to have a robust supply chain of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in place, and our staff are using this in accordance with the public health authority guidance. All of our staff will now be wearing face masks as a minimum and we remain confident in our supplies of this and all of our services have what they need.

Keeping up-to-date with the latest news

With developments happening continually we are keen to keep in touch with you as best we can.  If you haven’t received information by email or text message from us, and you would like to, please could you visit www.barchester.com/update which is a secure platform, and input your details so we can ensure our database has your latest information. We may send out updates via email and text message going forward.

If you have any questions or queries please do get in touch on feedback@barchester.com.