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Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Our Response (Updated 27/05/20)

REF: COVID-19 – Group update

As a company we remain committed to updating you about our homes during the Covid-19 outbreak. Due to the fast-moving nature of the situation the best way to do this is via email and the majority of our communication has been coming in this format. Going forward, we will be moving to email-only updates. If you have not received any email correspondence from us over the past month, it is likely that we do not have your email address on record. To update these details please email marketing@countrycourtcare.com with the following information:

  • Care home your relative lives in
  • Name of your relative
  • Email address to be added

If you have been receiving the email correspondence there is no need to contact us.

Updated actions since letter dated 12th May 2020

In our email on 12th May we explained that we were undertaking comprehensive Covid-19 testing for all staff and residents. The 2 forms of testing available are viral swab (to test for current infection) and antibody (to test for previous infection).

As part of our policy, we have arranged antibody testing for all staff across our homes. As this comes to completion, we will be moving to testing all residents for Covid-19 antibodies, to understand if there have been any previously unidentified cases. Everyone in our care will receive an antibody test dependent on the result of their initial viral swab test. If there is any reason you would not want your relative to receive this test, please reply to this email and we will happily discuss with you.

The process for testing is as follows:

  • All residents in the home to undertake viral swab tests, which will identify whether they are currently positive for Covid-19. As these tests come from CQC and Public Health England, we are dependent on when they arrive to each home, which means they are taking place at different times and speeds across the group. Many have been completed already, but if your relative has not yet been tested it means we are still waiting for the kits to arrive at their home to do so. We are chasing these on a daily basis to complete as quickly as possible.
  • All residents who receive a negative result are to undertake antibody tests. This will identify if they have previously had a positive case of Covid-19. We have purchased these tests privately and they are now available at all of our homes. This is a blood test, which is conducted as a finger prick. These tests will only be undertaken for residents that have received negative viral swab tests.

We are aiming to complete all testing as quickly as possible, but the timeframes for each home will differ depending on when the viral swab tests are received. We are committed to keeping you updated as a Group and will confirm when testing is completed across all of our homes. If you would like a specific update on the home that your loved one lives in, please contact the home directly and they can advise of the current situation.

Updated actions since letter dated 23rd April 2020

On 10th May, the Government announced a change in guidance for the lockdown rules in England. Following this, we have reviewed our visitors policy across our homes and have decided that that the restrictions will remain in place for the time being. As we have regularly communicated, we have managed to limit cases of Covid-19 in the majority of our homes and feel the measures we have imposed have worked well. While we feel that the peak of the virus has now past, we cannot be too careful and it is too early to lift visiting restrictions while there is still a major risk of infection to people in our care. We are also acutely aware that a situation like this can change quickly and at any moment. Therefore, at this time, we are not in a position to say when we will be able to lift our visiting policy but will continue to monitor the situation on a week by week basis. Rest assured that we want you to be able to visit your relative as soon as its safely possible.

To help with this process, I am pleased to confirm that we are now rolling out mass testing of staff and residents across all of our homes. The following testing will be taking place:

  • Viral tests – testing for current infection.

We have secured a large supply of Viral test kits from CQC for all of our homes. This is a swab to test whether someone is currently positive for Covid-19. All residents and staff will be tested.

  • Antibody tests – testing for any cases of previous infection.

We have privately sourced and purchased these kits. This is a blood test and will confirm whether someone has previously been infected with Covid-19. This will be used to test all staff across the company.

We expect to start both forms of testing in the next few days, to be largely completed by the end of next week. Our current data shows that around 40% of positive cases of Covid-19 are A-Symptomatic, so this testing will be an important step to ensure we get a clear picture of the situation in each of our homes. In line with increased testing, we are expecting positive cases to rise exponentially, across staff and residents. On paper, this may look concerning but we are well prepared to deal with the situation and having clear information on each person will further help us manage the health of our residents. It is also the aim that it will help speed up the process of our homes returning to normal operation at a time safe to do so.

Updated actions since letter dated 14th April 2020

There has been a lot of attention on Care Homes during the Covid-19 outbreak in recent weeks and many of the headlines have focused on the difficulties they are facing. Across Country Court, our homes are facing many challenges but we felt it was important to re-assure you that the current picture painted by the media is not reflected across our homes.

In my email on 14th April I mentioned that we currently care for around 1500 residents across our 32 care homes and have had only a handful of positive Covid-19 cases, with the large majority of our homes having had none at all. This continues to be true today and while we have had a small increase in cases, they have remained a low number and do not reflect the figures being reported elsewhere. We remain committed to keeping you as up to date as possible and where we have had homes with a positive case, have written to all next of kin to advise them. If you have not received a letter, this is because the home your relative lives in has remained virus free. Our heart goes out to any home suffering with Coronavirus but we felt it was important to show the other side of the story, how dedicated staff and good infection control practices are working to keep the virus under control. 

Testing for Covid-19 has now been made available to any residents who are showing symptoms and we have been utilising this facility where necessary. Last week, the Government announced that all social care staff would have access to local testing facilities operated by CQC. Initially, this is only available to those who are self-isolating due to themselves or a family member having symptoms, as well as anyone who starts to show indications of the virus. Again we have been utilising these tests where available. Both of these measures are a step in the right direction and we hope to see further extensions of this in the coming weeks.

Our policies regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that were implemented on 7th April remain in place and we have sufficient supplies to keep our homes well stocked. We felt it was important that you are aware that we have no concerns about maintaining this supply, in contrary to reports that you may have seen from others in the industry.

We are still operating a no-visitor policy and this will continue throughout the lockdown phase. It is again at this point that I have to thank you for the support you have shown during this period, as I know it can’t be easy for any of you. We remain committed to keeping you as updated as possible on news of your loved one, not just through these writings but via our Facebook pages, through our ‘Keep in Touch’ postcards and of course via telephone and video calls whenever you need them. If you would like to speak to a person we care for, please contact the home directly and they would be happy to help.

Email Sent 14/04/20

Many of you will have seen the news today around Covid-19 in Care Homes, that has been reported as a ‘growing crisis’ in sector. This is understandably concerning for anyone who has family or friends in a care home, so we wanted to move to reassure you of the safety of your loved ones at Country Court.

As with everything at our homes, the health, safety and well-being of our residents is our number one priority. At the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic we knew that this was something we needed to be extremely careful of, due to the vulnerable nature of the people we look after. This is why we moved quickly to restrict and eventually stop visits to our homes, aswell as ensuring our staff were fully supported to do the work they need to. We have made the necessary provisions to maintain a suitable supply of PPE equipment and continue to follow rigorous infection control procedures, to keep Coronavirus out of our homes as much as possible.

You will have seen some of the figures that are being talked about in the news around positive cases and deaths in care homes. These are high numbers and are obviously quite concerning, however we felt it was important that you were aware that these are not reflected in our homes at Country Court. Whilst it is impossible to be 100% protected from this virus, we currently care for around 1500 residents across our 32 care homes and have had only a handful of cases across these, with the large majority of our homes having had none at all. Of course any case that occurs is a concern, and any death that comes from it a tragedy, but we wanted to show you that the measures we are taking are working to keep your loved ones safe.

While we are currently unable to offer testing due to shortages, our aim is to constantly monitor staff and residents for any potential symptoms. We are also staying on top of any developments with Covid-19, so we are fully prepared for all future outcomes. As we speak, this is working well. Obviously this is a fast moving situation and things can change quickly, which is why we are remaining vigilant and working extremely hard to limit cases in our homes. We will continue to keep you updated on this and are here to answer any questions you have, so please do contact us on the details below should you need anything.

Updated actions since letter dated 1st April 2020

On 7th April, Public Health England updated their guidance for Care Homes during the Covid-19 outbreak. Until this point it has not been deemed necessary for staff to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to carry out their roles, however following the new guidelines we have updated working practices within all of our homes. These include:

  • All staff in the home will be required to wear masks, regardless of their role
  • All staff providing personal care will also be required to wear gloves and apron, even for residents who are not showing any symptoms
  • All residents returning from hospital are to be isolated for 14 days
  • If a resident is presenting with symptoms, all residents who have come into contact with that resident will be isolated for 14 days
  • Where possible, set members of staff will only care for these residents

While we feel we are managing the risk in each of our homes, we are taking these measures as a precaution in line with the national guidance. The safety of our residents remains our priority and we will continue to follow these guidelines until advised otherwise. We felt it was important to keep you up to date with the information and would like to re-assure you that we have a healthy supply of PPE to sustain us through this period. Should you have any questions on any of this please contact us on the dedicated Covid-19 details below.

We are still operating a no-visitor policy and will continue to monitor the situation. The visitors policy is listed below for reference.

All of our homes now have full provisions for video calls, via Google Hangouts. The procedure for these calls has been communicated separately by email and letter. If you have not received this or have a question about this, please contact the home that your loved one is in.

The best place to keep updated with your loved one is the Facebook page of their respective home, which is being updated regularly. We are aiming to show as much as daily life as possible, aswell as the many messages and gifts of support we have received from friends, relatives and the wider community. We are only able to show photos of residents who have provided consent, so if you have any questions on this please email marketing@countrycourtcare.com

Following reports of food shortages, this week we have completed delivery of a ‘Country Court Care Package’ to over 2000 staff who are working in our homes. We undertook this operation to ensure our care staff did not go short while working to keep your loved ones safe. Full information on this can be seen HERE

Updated actions since letter dated 26th March 2020

Our IT team have arranged for tablets to be delivered to each of our homes and video calling is now available for each home. For more information, please click here

All other actions stand as per below.

Updated actions since letter dated 19th March 2020

As of today (26th March) we are continuing with our actions implemented on Tuesday 17th March.

We are still operating a no-visitor policy, which was initially in place for a 2 week period from 17th March (policy below). Following the government announcement of nationwide lockdown on Monday 23rd March, we now expect this to continue for at least another 4-6 weeks. We have also had to cancel all visits from Hairdressers and Chiropodists until further notice and will be making provisions for this within the home. Our aim is to keep this period as short as safely possible, but it will be led by the national guidance and the best interests of our residents. We thank you for the understanding and support we have received for making the difficult decision to close our doors and will continue to keep you updated.

Our IT team have arranged for tablets to be delivered to each of our homes. This will allow video calling to be available on every floor. However, due to delays in deliveries, this will not be implemented until early next week. These video calls will be operated via Google Hangouts, for which you will require a Google Account (such as Gmail). If you don’t have one, it can be created by following the link: https://accounts.google.com/signup/. As soon as this system is up and running we will communicate the details of how you can access this service. In the meantime, many of the homes have some provisions for Facetime, Whatsapp or other video calling, so please do ask them what is available.

This week we have launched our ‘Keep in Touch’ Postcards which have been delivered groupwide. Our residents are enjoying writing to each other and talking about how they are keeping spirits up in their home. Everyone has loved the messages they have received from relatives and are writing back where possible, so please do keep in contact.

The best place to keep updated with your loved one is the Facebook page of their respective home, which is being updated regularly. We are aiming to show as much as daily life as possible, aswell as the many messages and gifts of support we have received from friends, relatives and the wider community. We are only able to show photos of residents who have provided consent, so if you have any questions on this please email marketing@countrycourtcare.com

All of our staff have been provided with proof of their ‘Key Worker’ status to ensure they can continue to come to and from their place of work. This is a difficult time for everyone and our fantastic staff are continuing to work extremely hard in the circumstances, putting the care of your loved ones at the heart of their efforts. We thank them for this and we will continue to do everything we can to support them throughout the period.

Updated actions since letter dated 17th March 2020

As of today (19th March) the actions from our previous correspondence still stand. We are still operating our Visitor Policy and want to thank all of you who undertaken the advice and stayed away from the home. We understand that this is a difficult decision for you but taken in the best interests of your loved ones. Without your visits, we are trying to handle as many of your calls as possible and hope everyone has been able to speak to the person they wanted to. We are still in the process of setting up a dedicated video calling system for each home and have someone working full-time on this. Our expectation is this will be ready early next week and will be communicated as soon as it is.

We are aiming to keep each of our Facebook pages up to date with life in the home. With demands on staff, this isn’t always possible, but we will try our best as we know this is a great way for you to see your loved one. Many of our homes are trying to send out newsletters when they can and we are also setting up a new initiative with ‘Keep in Touch’ Postcards, starting from next week. These have been designed for residents to send messages to each other across our homes, to maintain communication and keep each others spirits up. Of course many people will also want to send them to family members, so please look out for these!

You will have seen in the news the decision to close schools from Monday. This obviously has a big impact on our employees, as it no doubt does on many of you. We are working extremely hard to ensure it does not effect our staffing and are doing everything we can to keep our homes running smoothly. We are looking at flexible working hours to help cover shifts and continue to increase our recruitment push for all homes, which is already seeing results. On top of this, we now have a list forming of willing volunteers for our homes, should this be required. We still do not expect this to be necessary, but want to be prepared for all eventualities. If you do know someone who would like to volunteer please send us the details on covid19enquiry@countrycourtcare.com

Actions Implemented 17th March

Following the government announcement yesterday, we are expecting further government guidance with regards to restrictions for care homes and elderly people specifically. In anticipation of this, we are accelerating our plan to further reduce the risk of infection at all of our homes.

The below will be implemented from today, Tuesday 17th March:

  • Group travel for the company is on hold and only in exceptional circumstances will travel to homes take place from non Care Home based personnel.
  • All non-emergency supplier or contractor visitors will be stopped.
  • All activities from external suppliers will be stopped, but internal activities will continue to maintain the well-being of our residents. All external trips will now be cancelled. Hairdressing services will be reduced to monthly visits, by appointment only.
  • We will be operating a streamlined food menu for our homes, to ensure quality of delivery in a difficult time with suppliers. We are working hard to ensure this does not effect the enjoyment or nutrition of each meal.
  • We have set up a dedicated Coronavirus helpline and email address for family members and staff to contact us on. The details for this are listed below and this will be available 24 hours a day should you have any concerns.
  • Most significantly, we have updated our policy for resident related visitors, which can be seen below.
Visitors Policy

Following the recent guidance, we are not permitting visits from family members to our homes. We understand that this is not an ideal situation but feel it is necessary at this time to protect our residents. If you have an important reason for visiting your relative, we will review these on a case by case basis. We will try our best to facilitate essential visits but in the current climate we will be unable to allow the majority of these requests.

To request a visit, please contact the home your loved one is in and explain the reason for the visit. This will then be escalated to the Senior Management team to review whether we can arrange the visit. Please note that this may take up to 48 hours, depending on the situation.

Other than the above changes, the day to day running of the homes themselves will continue as before with the same teams delivering all the great work that they do regardless of the current circumstances.

As mentioned previously, Country Court already have rigorous infection control procedures and a robust outbreak plan should a risk or a case of Coronavirus be identified within either residents, the staff team or their immediate families.

If you have any questions or concerns on any of the above, please contact us on our dedicated Coronavirus details. This will be available 24 hours a day:

Telephone – 01733 465329

Email – covid19enquiry@countrycourtcare.com

For more information we would refer you to www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public for the official current guidelines.

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