We want to ensure that all our employees, customers and clients remain as safe as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic and in order to acheive this, we have introduced a number of protocols and procedures alongside our everyday duties which are being regularly adapted and updated as the pandemic situation changes.
What are we doing to limit the spread of Coronavirus and keep our staff, clients and customers safe?
We review and monitor the evolving situation with the Pandemic regularly and adapt accordingly.
On March 4 2020 we triggered our Business Continuity Plan and took the first actions toward assessing any risk related to the Pandemic. On March 13 2020 we launched our Business Continuity Project (BCP) Team, who have since been reviewing our response to the Pandemic on a regular basis. The BCP Team includes representatives from relevant parts of the organisation, including Directors, Operational Leads, HR, Training Lead, Tech and our Health & Safety lead; actions and decisions are tracked in a Special Measures document.
The safety and wellbeing of our employees and clients is of the utmost importance to us. The sections below provide a breakdown of some of the key steps we have taken to date in response to the Pandemic.
We identified and appointed a Communications Lead to ensure we adopted a consistent and clear approach to all communications surrounding the Pandemic. Communications include those to care workers, nurses, office staff, Local Authority partners and clients. All communications are discussed and agreed at the BCP team meetings and distributed regularly to ensure appropriate awareness.
We have launched a COVID-19 section of the website which contains useful information and links to applicable and relevant guidelines, and we encourage our care workers and office staff to review this regularly.
We established a specific Coronavirus mailbox for anyone to use with queries and concerns related to the Pandemic: email@example.com
Keeping our clients safe
In line with our Business Continuity Plan we regularly review our services based on the needs of our clients and the capacity of our care workforce. We take a risk-based approach to this to ensure that we strike the right balance. Decisions about reallocating visits and tasks, or reducing visits, are made with due consideration of the wishes and feelings of the person receiving care and their families where appropriate, in line with a person centred care approach. We work in partnership and transparently with Local Authorities, commissioners, the sector regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) and other partner agencies to balance decisions made.
We follow the Department of Health and Social Care guidance on providing home care. All of our branches are equipped with and NHS email address to allow remote, secure sharing of information relating to care between agencies.
To provide additional support to our Registered Managers we have enhanced our governance structure through regular senior management support.
We have also enhanced our out-of-hours service to provide better support to the local branches and the Registered Managers. We have introduced a central Care Hub; a team of experienced care professionals who monitor the service live and provide additional support with visits, medications, concerns and risks.
We have introduced regular well being calls to clients and families where appropriate. Additionally these provide ongoing useful information on any changes in circumstances that we should be aware of.
All of our care workers have been appropriately informed and trained in Infection Prevention and Control guidelines and best practices – we regularly refresh this information to ensure it remains relevant. We hold a large stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at all times to ensure our care workers are well equipped to deliver care safely. Our PPE stock is monitored weekly.
Visits are planned further in advance then we would ordinarily do and whenever possible the same care workers visit the same client group, meaning higher continuity of care and lower risk of cross infection. This is monitored daily.
We ask our clients to have ready access to allow the care worker(s) visiting them to wash their hands in their home with soap and warm water and clean towels to dry their hands.
Early warning system
We have developed our mobile Care Management App to include a COVID-19 alert system, warning our staff of any potential risk to health due to COVID-19 when entering a property, particularly whether anyone in the household is shielding, symptomatic or confirmed.
All branches and offices have implemented a working-from-home plan to minimise the working capacity in the office environment. These plans cater for the needs and safety of the service, as well as the personal circumstances of individuals.
Where an employee can work from home they are provided with their own equipment, such as laptops and phones, to minimise sharing. Working from home risk assessments are conducted regularly so that employees have an opportunity to raise concerns should their circumstances change.
Where working from home may compromise the safety of the service, the Team Manager keeps the number of individuals in the office to a minimum and rotas the same people to work together (cohorting), respecting good cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures; remaining two metres apart. Staff are asked to work side-by-side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face whenever possible. Team Managers are conducting more frequent one-to-one’s with their direct reports to monitor the situation closely and provide the much needed support. Workplace risk assessments are conducted and reviewed regularly, in line with guidelines and best practices.
As well as the knowledge hub on the COVID-19 section of our website, we have also provided posters and physical copies of information to be displayed.
We have increased the frequency of our cleaning contractors who are carrying out the general cleaning of our offices to a high standard. All communal spaces and shared facilities are kept clean and stocked to meet the needs of the office or branch.
We ask all of our staff not to share cups, cutlery or crockery without thorough cleaning first. Although toilets and lavatories are cleaned regularly we ask all of our staff to use the provided disinfectant before and after use.
Staff working in a branch or office have been instructed to ensure frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, particularly at the end and beginning of shifts.
Hand washing facilities and hand sanitisers are widely available throughout our offices. All workers are responsible for their own office space. Regular cleaning activities include:
Cleaning all door handles
Cleaning all office phones, keyboards and other daily equipment
keeping offices properly ventilated by opening windows where safe and appropriate.
Washing hands regularly and thoroughly, particularly when you get to work, after a cough or sneeze, after blowing your nose and before handling food. There is a useful video on this on the NHS How to wash your hands website
Visitors to our branches and offices
All branches and offices have adopted a limited visitor policy, with a large sign on office doors instructing visitor’s NOT to enter. Visitors to our offices have been reduced, with all non-essential visits cancelled or achieved through other means, such as video conferencing.
If care staff need to visit one of our offices we ask them to ring prior to the visit and meet with them at the entrance, retaining social distancing and good infection control procedures such as hand washing and wearing of face masks.
The safety of our care staff
Care staff receive regular communication and updates on Coronavirus, Including any Public Health England updates on infection Control. We also have a dedicated COVID-19 knowledge hub for them to use, and any support is provided both through their Registered Manager and our Coronavirus mailbox. Teams and individuals have remote access to regular supervision and support through their local branch and Registered Manager.
Additional training has been provided to our care workers in areas such as donning and doffing of PPE. Further reference and guidance is available from Public Health England, including helpful videos on the donning and doffing procedures.
Our stock reserve of PPE has been substantially increased and when care staff require PPE we are able to deliver it to them to minimise visits to the office or branch. We ask all of our care workers to flag with plenty of notice, ideally more than a few days, when they are approaching low quantity of PPE. Staff have also been instructed of the correct procedure to follow if they are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, and how to apply for a test.
Additionally we ask all care staff to wash their uniform daily to minimise the risk of cross infection and clean their smartphone after every visit. The use of hand sanitisers as well as thorough handwashing should occur at a minimum before starting a visit and at the end of the visit.
In recognition of the additional pressures posed by the Pandemic, both to the physical and mental wellbeing of our staff, we have introduced measures such as our Employee Assistive Programme to support in these areas and provide emotional support and advice.
We encourage our care staff to be tested regularly to reduce the risk of infection, particularly when individuals are doing so unknowingly asymptomatically. We support care workers to book the necessary test where that’s required. To find out more about testing and the NHS Test & Trace programme please follow the Guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care.
We recognise the risk of burn out and therefore prompt our care staff to book holiday leave, rest and time off. We monitor our care worker capacity daily so that we can manage risk promptly.
We have increased our recruitment initiatives to attract additional capacity to ease the pressure for our existing workforce.
Infection control procedures
We have informad staff that PPE is only effective when combined with:
Hand hygiene (cleaning your hands regularly and appropriately),
They have been reminded that they must perform hand hygiene immediately before every episode of care and after any activity or contact that potentially results in hands becoming contaminated. This includes the removal of PPE, equipment decontamination and waste handling.
They are also reminded not to wear nail varnish or false nails, keep their nails short and use moisturiser after hand washing to keep the skin on their hands intact. More information on this is outlined in the WHO Five moments for Hand Hygiene guidance.
If staff do not have suitable facilities for cleaning hands in a client’s home, they are advised to carry hand sanitiser or cleaning wipes to make sure they can clean their hands when they need to. They are advised to avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes during and between care and to practice hand hygiene both before and after eating or drinking.
If any client develops symptoms, or if our staff are concerned for any reason they should inform their manager immediately.
We advise that our staff avoid car sharing unless absolutely necessary. If this is unavoidable we advise they share with the same individual only, keep windows open to aid ventilation, maintaining social distancing where possible – for example passengers seated in the back, considering wearing face masks (provided that this does not negatively affect their ability to drive safely) and keeping the area they are in clean and sanitised.
Health and wellbeing
In response to the challenges posed by the Pandemic and the impact they have had both on the mental and physical wellbeing of individuals, we have hired a Fitness and Wellbeing Lead to provide expert health and wellbeing support, as well as hosting fitness classes live through social media.
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