The virus was evolving and infection rates rapidly increasing from January 2020; it was the manager’s proactive approach that has been a contributory factor in response to COVID19.

A decision not everyone agreed with initially was to lock down the home weeks before the government’s advice. PPE was sourced and purchased at the home’s own expense as the normal supplier informed that all their stocks were being held for the NHS. PPE purchased included FP3 face masks, gloves, aprons, cleaning, and sanitizing products.

The manager produced a pandemic preparedness plan which was emailed out to all family members of the residents. A communication programme was set up where families could book facetime, WhatsApp or a conversation over the telephone. Regular updates were sent to families along with newsletters and photos.

But the manager’s motivation came from an infection control perspective, and she spent time training staff and putting best practices in the home. Any staff who felt unwell did not come into work and management and ancillary staff trained in care, covered shifts as well as kitchen and laundry duties. Perhaps the fact that no agency staff were deployed during the pandemic was also a factor in keeping COVID out?

Before the government PCR testing was rolled out, the provider purchased Sure Screen rapid 15-minute lateral flow tests for residents and staff and visitors. This gave peace of mind for anyone who felt unwell, and it also allowed visitors to see a loved one at the end of life.

When the home re-opened for about six weeks, a ground floor bedroom was used for family visits and as access was via the garden, the relative did not walk through the home. Stringent cleaning was carried out between visits.

During this period, the weather was glorious and the bi-folding doors leading on the terrace were open throughout the day allowing plenty of fresh air into the home. Summerlands has a wonderful garden and residents spent many hours sitting, eating and drinking outside.

We used the government grant to buy a handwashing unit at the front of the home, an outdoor bubble as well as screening for indoor visits. The manager continued with strict control measures where staff had a designated changing area, uniforms laundered on-site and handwashing, hand sanitising became normal practice. Plans and systems were continually evolving, and senior staff undertook training in wound management and diabetes injections before the home locked down, so community nurses were only required if necessary.

Throughout the anxieties and worries, we kept our sense of humour, and we even arranged a surprise hen party for a member of staff. This proved to be an amazing evening and the laughter and fun proved to be just what the staff team needed.

It was a team effort and thank you bonus was given to the staff for their superb efforts in keeping the deadly virus out.

It has been a success that we have managed no COVID related deaths so far. But we know it isn’t over.