Health & safety

Covid implications for care home health & safety

Brett Edwards, health & safety director of Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Care Company and a member of the national executive team at National Association for Safety and Health in Care Services (NASHiCS), looks back at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to the care workplace

2019 saw the emergence in China of the Covid-19 virus, which was initially deemed to be ‘under control’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, in early 2020 the infection

rate was increasing exponentially around the world. This led to organisations exploring ways in which they could reduce the potential risks to their employees as well as to their service users. Government guidance advising

organisations on how to reduce the risks was limited initially. That was in part due to a lack of in-depth knowledge of the virus, its likely impact and the speed at which the virus was spreading. As a result, it meant that in many cases safety advice was, in the main reactive to new information being made available through WHO and other leading health bodies. As a care provider for those

considered to be most vulnerable, due to their age, from the effects of contracting this new virus, there were two options available to organisations. Firstly, await guidance and hope that this was received in plenty of time to properly protect the residents, staff and visitors. Secondly, take a proactive approach

and implement protocols ahead of guidance, with a view to adapting these upon receipt of more robust approaches. This was also true in terms of the

procurement of PPE for staff in order to reduce the risk of virus transmission; details of the most appropriate PPE were not forthcoming in a timely fashion and the sourcing of it was challenging, particularly in health sector. While not being experts in the management of viruses, it was becoming clear very quickly that basic infection prevention and control protocols,

supported by social distancing and reduced social contact was the key to reducing the risk of virus transmission and as a result the organisation took the difficult decision to close the doors to non-essential visitors across England and Wales.

Difficult choices One of the most difficult challenges faced throughout the last year was determining what was best for residents in relation to the very evident risk of virus infection with the potential for this to lead to serious illness or death, against the potential impacts of social isolation from loved ones. While many will determine that the

risk of the virus is greater than that experienced through social isolation, it was very clear, even in the early stages of the pandemic that the effect of social isolation could and indeed did have extremely serious consequences, for many.

June 2021 •

Human rights very much featured in discussions when introducing Covid-safe protocols and following government guidance on best practice, to ensure the safety of all residents. While it is essential to reduce the risks associated with any transmissible infection, it is also necessary to take in to consideration the rights of the individual residents. This meant that in order to safeguard

the continued protection of all concerned from Covid-19, it was crucial that residents were informed of what was being done at every juncture and how they could assist in keeping themselves safe. A positive reinforcement approach helped to work with residents and their loved ones to safeguard everyone who resided or entered one of the care homes. Through this continued transparent dialogue, residents, staff and relatives naturally supported the actions taken, enabling a more focussed approach on improving safety protocols for continued


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