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  • Oliver Hodgson

Support for care sector continues in face of ongoing challenge

Care homes in Cumbria continue to be on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 in Cumbria, but say support from the county council and local NHS is making a difference.

Barbara Johnson, Director of Nursing at Risedale Retirement and Nursing Homes, said:

“The excellent, professional relationships we have with Cumbria County Council, Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust have continued throughout the current COVID 19 crisis.

“We are particularly grateful for Local Authority Public Health for infection control support and advice. Similarly, Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group have been exceptionally proactive with resident and staff testing and infection control advice. University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has provided helpful occupational health advice to enable us to support staff throughout.

“Local relationships have been extremely important particularly in relation to ever-changing and conflicting Government guidance.”

Cumbria County Council is leading the response, working with the two hospital Trusts, two Clinical Commissioning Groups and alongside representatives from the independent care sector. They are taking a multi-pronged approach to support the sector: - Providing daily support to homes experiencing outbreaks from a specialist Outbreak Control Team.

- Co-ordinating requests for support from care settings via a 24/7 Response Cell to ensure that the right support can be offered as quickly as possible - including staffing, PPE, infection control and testing.

- Managing the discharge of patients from hospitals into care settings to minimise any infection risks.

- Daily data gathering of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases in care settings to provide up to date understanding of the scale of the issue and identify settings in need of support.

Managers from two other homes, who preferred to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of residents, also provided feedback.

One, the manager of a home in the Carlisle area, said:

“I found the support during the worst of our situation very valuable. As soon as I indicated we were in an emergency situation daily support and reassurance was offered as well as practical help with arranging extra nurses to help us at a time where residents were being cared for in our environment in a very acute situation. Having support on the phone every day was of great help to me as a manager.”

The other, the manager of a home in the Copeland area, said:

“As a new interim manager, I have been overwhelmed at the support I have been given by the Local Authority. I get a daily phone call to see how we as a team are managing in these very difficult and stressful times for all concerned. I am asked daily if I have enough staff, PPE and if we are coping with the Covid-19 epidemic. This support from the local authority has been a godsend to me and my team and we are grateful for the ongoing support. Our phone call always ends with we are here if you need anything just let us know.”

The priority of the work with the care sector remains to ensure that care settings which are infection-free remain that way, and where the infection is either confirmed or suspected that support is provided to help contain the outbreak and minimise the impact. Cllr Patricia Bell, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said:

“The care sector in Cumbria, both private and public, has been working incredibly hard for weeks now to keep our most vulnerable residents safe. It has been incredibly challenging and very sadly people have died. But is absolutely clear that the outstanding work of hundreds of people every day has prevented a far worse situation and we have been glad to be able to offer support to help them do their vital work.

“While the country starts to ease out of lockdown it is important to remember that our care sector is still supporting well over 100 people with confirmed COVID-19 infection, so the challenge is very much not over yet and they still need all the support of everyone in the community.”

Louise Mason-Lodge, acting director of nursing and quality at NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said:

“We work very closely with our care homes, and that relationship has been really important to help us identify when support is needed and offer advice and practical help quickly. Our care homes are a key part of our health and care system and they have worked tirelessly to support their residents.”

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