Cleaning and Hygiene During The ‘Second Wave’

Care home residents will once again be vulnerable during the second wave of COVID-19. How are cleaning and hygiene regimes being managed to keep residents safe during this time, asks Essity’s Liam Mynes?

The first wave of COVID-19 hit care homes hard.

A shortage of PPE, coupled with a low level of testing capability, made it extremely difficult for staff to keep residents safe. These same members of staff were oſten working in several homes at once, then returning to their families at night. This gave them multiple opportunities for picking up the virus and potentially passing it on to those in their care.

Meanwhile, rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in hospitals meant that wards were becoming increasingly overcrowded. And, when elderly patients were discharged, hospital staff had little choice but to send them back to their care homes.

This turned out to be a ticking time bomb since some patients had inevitably been infected with the virus during their hospital stay. Thousands of care home residents then died as the coronavirus quickly tore through their vulnerable populations.

However, the fact that most care homes had closed their doors to visitors at the start of the pandemic meant that at least one transmission route had been blocked off.

Case numbers in the general population are now on the rise again as the winter weather takes hold. However, the picture has changed dramatically since the spring – and this means that today’s challenges are very different to the ones we faced back in March.

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For example, the availability of PPE and testing capacity have both improved dramatically. More than 120,000 tests are now being offered every day to the care home sector, according to the Department of Health. The DoH’s Adult Social Care Winter Plan has ploughed £1.1bn into infection-control measures, to include free PPE and detailed guidance.

New policies are also in place to minimise the chances of staff members infecting the residents. More than 20,000 care home residents died from COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic, thought to be partly due to the fact that asymptomatic workers were allowed to freely move between care homes without being tested for the disease.

New legislation drawn up this autumn stipulates that care workers can no longer work in more than one home at once, which means there is no longer a risk of picking up the virus from one place of work and spreading it to the next one.

At the same time, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has issued guidelines for best practice which include ensuring that personal items, such as toiletries, are not shared between residents, as well as advocating that all care home rooms should undergo regular enhanced cleaning.

The CQC adds that stricter cleaning schedules should be implemented to include the frequent cleaning of high-touch areas such as light switches, keyboards and door handles. Additionally, records should be kept to reflect this.

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