ChallengeCare homes and other adult social care providers have faced the challenge of protecting and shielding people vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus head on. One such care home, Fulford Nursing Home in York, took steps to protect its residents early in the pandemic and continues to adapt to changing times in the sector.
Business Manager, Elizabeth Hancock, has been running the family-owned 28-bed home south of the city for 18 years. Here, she talks about how the home has changed over time, is coping with current pressures and how Capacity Tracker helps her to manage effectively.
She said: “When I took over in 2002 we had 28 divan beds. Now we have 28 profiling mattresses – all air beds. Many of our residents have complex needs. In fact, most of the people we have now would have been in hospital 18 years ago – so we have seen a huge change in the skills needed. I’m also lucky that I have good team around me.
“Like most homes we have had some rocky times. In 2014 we had a number of empty beds. We then got involved in a quality tool that allowed me to risk assess
the home. I spoke at an event where I met representatives from NHS England who asked me to come and talk about the challenges of being a care home manager. Since then we have made strides and while we are a relatively small family care home we have a real ‘heart’. People smile and we know everyone. That’s something that’s difficult to get across – you have to ‘feel’ it when you come here.”
How has the care home responded to the threat of Covid-19?
“In a way Brexit helped us and we had quite a bit of planning already in place and had a couple of months’ PPE stock. Back in January, when the virus was first being mentioned, our bank manager rang to ask what plans we had in place to cope with a pandemic and set out of the financial implications of failure. That really focussed minds. We went into lockdown quite early on 11 March. My gut feeling was to close the doors – and I was lucky to be supported on that decision by the families and staff.
“We have been using Capacity Tracker for at least two years. More should embrace it. It helped solve my biggest headache – occupancy. We have to be efficient in use of beds and time ringing around to fill them could be better invested in running the care home. Capacity Tracker is a way of saying 'I have a vacancy and we may be able to help you'. For instance we had a council in London call us to find a bed in York for a gentleman who wanted to be closer to his family and receive end of life care. They would have found us sooner if they had used Capacity Tracker and the gentleman could have spent more time close to his family in the area. So, it's not just care homes trying to fill beds – it’s about making a difference to families and people at often the most important stage of their lives.
“We have been in lockdown for a few months now and have managed to keep Covid-19 out of the home. We put our collective feet down on testing and understood that our biggest risk was from admissions. However, we did admit to a couple to our rehabilitation beds – people who had been in assessment before coming to us and were therefore unlikely to have contracted the virus.
“In the early days (of the pandemic) I got all the online tools ready such as Skype and FaceTime and started a pen pal campaign inviting people to write to residents in lockdown. We had letters coming in from as far away as the USA, Netherlands and France.
“All that is exciting in a strange way, but what I found hard was anticipating the spread of the virus and working out what the new ‘normal’ would be. I’ve gone from protecting my staff with PPE (personal protection equipment) to protecting the residents with PPE because, as lockdown restrictions ease our staff become more exposed to risk.
“Motivating my staff to ‘push forward’ while they wear masks and change their PPE is also a challenge as is guarding against complacency. We’ve had to embed
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