Your Questions Answered


OUR GROUP COMPLIANCE OFFICER SUZY MARSHALL REFLECTS ON THE PAST 10 WEEKS OF THE PANDEMIC
As we begin to emerge from what has arguably been one of the biggest challenges faced by the Care Sector on record it has been very interesting to reflect on not only the sheer brilliance of our team members in our homes but also on things that we now do differently, some of which surely will stay the same in the future.
When the Pandemic started in early March, like everyone else, we were quite worried about what the real impact was going to be on us. We completed copious amounts of planning which, at the time, was all done on a “just in case” basis, which in fact mostly turned to reality as we were all significantly operationally tested over the first few weeks, constantly thinking about what’s going to happen next and dealing with the enormous amounts of information and policy changes that were required. I think we got to COVID-19 Policy version 9 within a matter of days.
Being “confined” was also not that easy for us. How will the team cope? Will we know what’s happening on the ground? were constant thoughts. 10 weeks on, we needn’t have worried as we found ways to communicate and get real time information from our teams in the homes.
I think this was when we realised that our role was one of “support” rather than instructing. Our Home Managers took the brunt of the changes and handled it incredibly well. Our role was to be on the end of the phone and to source and provide them with whatever they needed and be a point of advice and also someone to let off steam to, if that’s what they needed.
We have removed many unnecessary reports and requirements from the homes to allow them the time to operate efficiently and have utilised our time looking at smarter ways to collect and distribute information. Many of which have already been implemented and in final review stages with others.
Moving forward, we are clearly going to be a more effective business than we were when we went into this. A short time for change, indeed, but with a redirected focus of our time, its most definitely been worthwhile.
Communication, in my opinion, has never been better, swifter decision making and a more focussed approach to what the “real” issues are have been some of the benefits that we have realised, which don’t come easy when you spend a lot of time on the road each week.
I can’t praise our Homes Teams enough for the sheer grit and determination that they have displayed through this time and keeping our homes free of Coronavirus. I would like to think that we have supported that in some way by focussing our time on the critical issues that they just didn’t have the opportunity to focus on and taking the load wherever possible.
We have created Whats App groups, had virtual meetings, collected data differently, got creative and gone back, to a certain extent, to that old-fashioned method of communication “talking to people”. We have learned lots of lessons and things that we will imbed into our business, forever.
We will be forever grateful to our local teams who through adversity have demonstrated the values of the organisation Family, Integrity, Respect & Exceptional.


Our clinical and governance team are continually assessing public health and NHS guidance as well as other local and national updates to assess the risk to each home. Currently, our priority is to reduce the risk of infection for residents and the teams caring for them and we believe the best way to do this is to limit visits to exceptional circumstances.   We will continue to follow public health advice, but our initial estimate is that these restrictions may be in place for around 12 weeks from when they were first put in place in late March.  We will advise relatives as soon as this changes. Meanwhile, our teams are doing everything they can to keep residents safe, occupied and feeling connected to their friends and family.
This will depend on the circumstances in the home at any point in time.  If you believe your situation falls into this category, please contact the home manager who will discuss whether it is appropriate for you to visit.  Please do not travel to the home without confirmation of a visit as unfortunately, we will not be able to grant you access to the home without prior agreement from the home manager.
Our priority is, and will always be, keeping residents safe. As residents in our homes are more likely to be seriously affected if they catch coronavirus, we’re doing everything we can to limit the chances of the virus entering any homes.  Although you may feel well and healthy, some people do not show any, or only slight, symptoms but may still be capable of spreading the virus. Therefore, we have taken the decision to limit all but essential visitors.  This aligns with Government guidance about self-isolation for those in high risk categories and the over seventies.

We have recently launched a programme to register the interest of volunteers who may wish to support our homes.  Please email your details to cv@heatherwood.org to register your interest.  You will be asked to provide a few personal details, including a copy of your DBS if you have had one done in the past three years.  Keep in mind that we will only use volunteers where absolutely necessary to ease the pressure of colleagues self-isolating.  Please don’t be offended if we don’t respond to your offer of volunteer support immediately – we will call on you if and when needed.

We work with a number of suppliers across our care homes every day for essential items such as food, medicines and other items, and are in touch with them on an ongoing basis to ensure deliveries and stocks of items to our homes continue. Currently, we have no concerns about obtaining these, so please rest assured we remain safe and have the items we need.

We realise how important keeping in touch with family and friends is, and have not taken this decision lightly. Our home teams will continue to do their best to help and support you to stay in touch by whatever means they can.
We have a dedicated Whats App video dial in number or via telephone, and email, as well as by letter or cards. Please contact the Home Manager find out what options are available to you. The Home Manager's are also sending one 2 one emails to all family members on an almost daily basis with a brief outline of the days activities, the well being of of your loved one and photographs.
For the time being, for the safety of residents and the teams at the home, we have had to severely limit all visits to our care homes and it would be unlikely that a visit from children would full under our definition of exceptional circumstances.  Please consider other ways that family and friends can keep in touch with loved ones, whether that’s by telephone, video call, email, or by letter or card.  Pictures drawn by younger family members are always popular with residents in our home.

We are constantly assessing the situation, and the most up-to-date advice and guidance will be found on our website. We will email all relatives contacts as things change.
While we understand this is a concern for some relatives, we feel it is important that we help relieve the pressure on other parts of the health service by accepting residents only where it is safe to do so.  Where we feel a home has a heightened level of risk, we have limited our admissions to those requiring permanent care and we are no longer allowing families to view the home before admission. We also put in place a number of processes to minimise the risks associated with new admissions – this includes reviewing a history of temperature checks, and caring for new admissions isolation for the first seven days of their stay. In addition a mandatory requirement in line with Government Guidelines is that a covid-19 test must be carried out. The Home's protocols are that the test result MUST be negative and that 7 days must pass from the test result to the possibility of a Home admission. We have clear protocols in place.

All essential visits from healthcare professionals are still permitted as normal.