Barchester Healthcare and the UK Coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus

This page was last updated on 4th March 2021.

To read our latest communications to residents and relatives, 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’re delighted our residents and staff have been prioritised to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and the large majority have already had their first vaccination. We’re making our homes as safe as possible and will do everything we can to ensure that all new residents, patients and staff are vaccinated before moving in or working in our homes and hospitals. 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 for COVID-19.

In order to reassure you, this page details the latest guidance from Barchester Healthcare about the protocols that we have implemented. 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, Scotland, Wales and Jersey

Following the recent Government announcements and media interest over the last few days regarding a return to allowing indoor visiting in care homes, please rest assured that we are working as hard as we can to enable visiting in line with the latest government information. We now have indoor visiting guidance from Scotland and Jersey and we are aligning our thinking to that. In England, an initial press statement was released with regard to indoor visiting and we are awaiting further guidance which will be available on or before 8th March. Sadly at present there is no update on when indoor visiting will be permitted in Wales.

For England, Scotland and Jersey there is lots of planning happening in the background, and our General Managers and Hospital Directors will be discussing with residents and patients who are able to decide themselves who their designated visitor/s are, with one designated visitor permitted in England and two named designated visitors permitted in Scotland and Jersey. We will also be contacting those who have lasting Power of Attorney for Health/Welfare or Guardianship, and support residents and patients who are not able to make that decision for themselves. If you are a designated visitor you will be receiving communication on what you need to do to ensure the visits are safe, and also how you should book the visit through the visitor booking system on our website, which will enable our staff to manage the COVID-19 testing process effectively.

As previously communicated, we are wanting to take a cautious approach to indoor visiting, mindful of the devastating effect COVID-19 has had on our vulnerable residents and patients, and therefore our preference is that designated visitors visiting indoors would be vaccinated, as we know from the latest medical data that this limits transmission.  However, we are also mindful that this may not be possible, and many of you have told us that you are not in a category that has been vaccinated as yet, so whilst it is our preference, please be assured that if you have not had the chance to be vaccinated we will not stop you from becoming the designated visitor able to visit indoors.  We will however ensure that everyone follows the protocols to support visiting safely in regard to the use of PPE, and being tested using a Lateral flow Device test before entering the home in line with government guidance.  That will mean that you will have to wait for the test results to come through before entering the service and this takes up to 30 minutes.

Please do bear with us as we plan for indoor visiting, and whilst we are aiming to do this as quickly as possible, we can only do it once the designated visitor/s have been identified and all of our operational protocols are in place. In the meantime and even once indoor visiting is in place we will continue to offer visiting in our designated visiting suites, outdoors or at windows as we are mindful that this may remain your preference or this may mean more individuals are able to continue to visit.

All of our homes and hospitals have a dedicated suite for visiting, available for those who can be assisted to this area. The visiting suite offers a COVID secure environment for residents and patients that is comfortable and will continue to be offered for those who choose this option. In addition we continue to offer visiting outdoor and window visiting for all those able.

Please note that as always, visiting must be signed off by the local director of public health or local health protection team. In England, with all areas currently remaining in national lockdown, visiting is permitted outdoors, at windows or via the visiting suite if agreed. In Scotland, remains in Level 4 we are able to continue to allow for one household to visit at windows and outdoors and visiting may be possible in visiting suites. In Wales, with all areas now in alert Level 4, we are able to continue to allow for one visitor to visit at windows and outdoors and visiting may be possible in visiting suites if signed off by local health protection teams. In Jersey, visiting may be possible for a designated nominated visitor. At this time, indoor bedroom visits at present are only permitted in exceptional circumstances for those nearing the end of their lives and we ask that visitors participate in LFD testing as part of end of life visiting.

Our visitor booking system has now been rolled out to all our services. This enables the teams to manage visiting as effectively as possible, and also allows you, as the visitor, an easy to use system to plan your visits.  This 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.

For those able to have visit, we offer each resident at least one visit per week for at least 30 minutes.

Please note, the General Manager or Hospital Director may postpone visits at any time without notice, should they be advised to do so for the safety of all as instructed by government or local public health authorities. 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 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.

Vaccinations

The vaccination roll out programme continues to keep us positive and we are delighted that the majority of our residents and patients have been vaccinated. Those who aren’t yet vaccinated is largely due to the need to wait 28 days after being COVID-19 positive, but we are confident that all of our residents and patients who can be, will be vaccinated, and we will be ensuring that all new residents and patients will also be vaccinated or be willing to be vaccinated before moving in.

With regard to our staff, we have been working hard to ensure that they take decisions in an informed way and we have provided them with a great deal of supporting information, including webinars with Professor Nicola Stonehouse, a renowned virologist, providing her independent expert opinion on a wide range of vaccine related questions and as a result, almost all staff have either had the vaccine or are now preparing for it, which, as you know, is being delivered to social care staff as a priority. Following staff engagement and a full risk assessment, we have introduced a new policy in which we expect all staff to have had the vaccine by 23 April 2021, although we are prepared to delay that date if there is any data regarding safety, efficacy or effect on transmission which requires further review.  We have set out a number of acceptable exemptions, including, at this stage, pregnancy, and exempted staff will operate with enhanced PPE. It is important also to say that we fully respect the decisions that individuals make and if someone chooses not to accept the vaccine we respect that decision.  However, we take our responsibility for the care of our residents and patients very seriously and believe this is the approach to give them the utmost protection.

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. We are testing both residents, patients and staff on a very regular basis with PCR tests being used every 28 days for residents in England, Wales and Jersey, and every week for staff in all of our services, along with an additional two Lateral Flow Device tests for staff every week too.  Whilst it is recognised that the Lateral Flow Device tests are not as accurate, in conjunction with the PCR tests which are very accurate, they are an added level of information that can help to limit transmission, and we are very supportive of that, particularly with the knowledge of the new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19 that is now circulating throughout the UK.

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, mentally and socially 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. We have weekly activity plans created by our homes and hospitals that include a variety of activities, events and entertainment that stimulate mind, body and soul, both on an individual basis and in smaller group settings, to allow everyone to stay connected and active.

Our residents and patients have the choice to enjoy a number of virtual events to connect with local primary schools, have virtual religious services with their local churches, as well as take delight in live entertainment through live steamed performances. More recently, we have partnered with Blenheim Palace, Historic Environment Scotland as well as V&A Dundee and have a number of cultural, social and historical tourist attractions we are working with to provide a variety of live talks and events each month for the year ahead. To keep everyone safe we are adhering to physical distancing advice and as of such our group activities are smaller and strict cleanliness routines are implemented with every activity.

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 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 testing for COVID-19 at least twice weekly, and infection control measures in place. 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.

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