Re-booting the care sector’s approach to quality in the new normal
Social care providers have been nothing short of heroic in their response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In difficult circumstances, when there was a national shortage in PPE, social care professionals went above and beyond to ensure their clients were appropriately cared for.
While all the political focus was on the NHS, social care providers accommodated the rapid discharge of many older people from acute settings at the start of ‘lock down’ and set about ensuring the safety of their clients as best they could.
But, as the pandemic restrictions are lifted, and with no imminent vaccination, social care providers are working through a new challenge.
How can personalised and compassionate care be re-introduced?
During the pandemic, care homes had to close their doors to external visitors and restrict internal interactions.
Despite these measures, official figures show over 19,000 people have died from Coronavirus in UK care homes – nearly a third of all fatalities.
New research by the University of East Anglia suggests that Coronavirus was more likely to get into care homes when there were more non-care staff such as maintenance people, cooks and those in administrative roles.
The researchers suggest this may be because they wear less PPE and possibly work over multiple sites.
Once the virus was present in a home, the study says its spread was most strongly linked to a lack of PPE, particularly facemasks and eye protection.
The risk of this spread has seriously affected the quality of life of vulnerable people in care settings.
Many of the advances the sector has driven in service user control and personalisation have been mothballed. Even social interactions and leisure pursuits have been minimised. Infection control and client safety have been the priorities.
Fortunately, infection rates are now much reduced. But, going forward, how do care providers balance safety with the quality of life of their clients?
There will obviously have to be ongoing infection control measures – regular hand washing, distancing, facilities cleaning, staff PPE, and appropriate testing.
But, with training and familiarity, infection control must just become one aspect of daily life in a care setting – it cannot be the sole activity.
Older people must be empowered to live full lives once again. Communication technologies and ‘social bubbles’ can play an important role in restoring positive socialisation – and many hobbies and leisure activities can be re-introduced with careful management.
Loneliness can also be dangerous to the health of clients. We cannot allow our care environments to become prisons, and care providers must be supported in developing a wider view of quality once again.
Join our webinar on ‘Quality and Safety – striking the balance after Coronavirus’ on 11th August at 2pm. Click here to join us at The Care Summer Series.