Summary of report content
Healthwatch Barnet wanted to gather intelligence about local care homes’ experiences of providing services to residents during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. They spoke to staff in 43 of the 83 registered care homes in the borough.
Overall, most care home managers reported that they had managed well during the first wave of the pandemic, although many noted that it had been an exceptionally stressful and challenging time for staff, residents and their loved ones. Many managers reflected that this was to some extent exacerbated by PPE coming four or five weeks too late. Managers also reported frustrations with accessing testing for staff and residents, with some managers stating that they were unable to access testing until as late as April or May. This was again reported as contributing to overall levels of stress amongst staff, residents, and their loved ones.
Many care home managers reported concerns about the financial impact of the pandemic on their care home and on the care sector more widely. The extra costs of PPE, a reduction in new admissions to the care home, and the cost of Covid-19-related staff absences were identified as keys factors in this. Many care homes managers have had to put into place new policies and procedure to ensure that staff do not bring Covid-19 into the home.
Most care homes reported that routine healthcare for residents was predominately being provided digitally, with face-to-face consultations only being carried out if clinically necessary. Many managers welcomed this change as video consultations allowed multiple professionals to be present at once and increased multidisciplinary team working. Some residents (particularly residents in mental health care homes) cannot attend face-to-face medical appointments outside of the care home, and may not always afforded privacy in the care home when discussing medical issues.
Many care home managers raised concerns about the length of time it was taking Barnet Council to carry out Deprivation of Liberty Assessments and to provide assessment reports. In some cases delays in obtaining assessments have been in excess of 6 months.
Healthwatch Barnet found that most care homes had put significant time and effort into supporting residents’ wellbeing during lockdown and have been using a variety of creative ways to ensure residents are stimulated and can maintain contact with their loved ones. However, for many residents, particularly residents with dementia, digital visiting does not provide a substitute for in-person visits, and that a lack of in-person contact may well contribute to distress and a decline in wellbeing.
The report includes five recommendations about guidance for care homes, support for additional costs; access to face to face healthcare appointments; reducing delays in assessments and improved access for visiting.