Kent comes together to support care homes
More than 100 volunteers from the NHS, Kent Police, Kent Fire & Rescue Service and other health organisations have taken part in a training scheme to support care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Picture caption: Jo Gilham, Education Officer at Kent Fire & Rescue Service, with colleagues receiving their initial training before delivering it to care home staff.
As part of the Kent Resilience Forum, NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recruited the volunteers to take part in a ‘Train the trainer’ scheme which will enable them to train care home staff in infection prevention and control, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing for Covid-19.
Paula Wilkins, Chief Nurse at NHS Kent and Medway CCG, who led the programme, said: “Some of the most vulnerable people in our society live in care homes and we know that they have been under an enormous amount of pressure recently across the country. In response, the NHS and local authorities have increased the support we provide to help them cope with the pandemic.
“Initially we recruited four super trainers from the CCG who were then able to train the volunteers either remotely or in a face-to-face setting, albeit socially distanced. These people are now delivering training to care home staff – again remotely or face-to-face depending on the home’s preference – to support them in looking after their residents under very difficult circumstances.”
The additional training builds upon good practice that was already in place in some 700 care homes across Kent and Medway, providing managers with the confidence that staff and residents are better protected against infection.
Volunteers were recruited from across the NHS, as well as from Kent Police, Kent Fire & Rescue Service, Ellenor Hospice, Pilgrims Hospice, Hospice in the Weald, Heart of Kent Hospice and Medway Community Healthcare.
Kent Police Citizens in Policing Superintendent Jason Wenlock said: “There is no such thing as normal business during the Covid-19 pandemic and everyone is under pressure to make urgent changes to the way in which we work and carry out our daily lives.
“Those working on the frontline, particularly in healthcare, are under an enormous amount of pressure and we are pleased to be able to help by providing volunteers to carry out training in the use of personal protective equipment at care homes across the county.
“This support complements the good work already being carried out and we, as a partner agency who focusses on protecting people, are more than willing to assist. We recognise this work as being critical and it is vitally important we all explore ways in which we can support our partner agencies during such an exceptional time.”
Karen Pointer, Group Manager for Collaboration at Kent Fire & Rescue Service (KFRS), said: “We’re delighted to be involved with this initiative and to be able to offer our support to the large number of care homes which will benefit from the training.
“We have at least 16 KFRS employees who have completed the voluntary training and are now equipped to train care home staff. This includes both operational crews and support staff from a range of KFRS teams, who are all keen to help wherever they can during this unprecedented time.”
As well as the ‘Train the trainer’ scheme, the CCG and GP surgeries are providing care homes with support for managing Covid outbreaks, as well as additional end of life care support and help for vulnerable care homes. A weekly check-in identifies and reviews patients who are a clinical priority who need assessment and care.
Public Health England is responsible for responding to initial outbreaks in care homes and has been working in partnership with South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) and the CCG to provide an ambulance with crew and CCG healthcare professionals to deliver outbreak testing to care home residents. Known as the ‘Swabulance’, the vehicles are able to visit homes where there are potential outbreaks of Covid-19, testing residents in their own environments. This is separate to the care home testing which is undertaken following identification of an initial outbreak under the national swabbing programme.
Janet Spree, Manager at The Chase Home in Canterbury, which received support from the CCG recently, said: “We were extremely grateful to get the support we needed and to know someone was listening to our concerns and worries – it really put our minds at rest. Our initial conversations were followed up straightaway; we were tested within 24 hours and the results came back very quickly. Staff tell me they felt confident in the training provided so we are more than happy with the support we received.”
As part of the support being offered by the CCG and its partners, each care home now has a named clinician providing regular support calls.
Paula Wilkins added: “I am so proud of the CCG staff, as well as all the volunteers from other organisations, who have pulled together at such a difficult time to provide the additional support that care homes need.”