How to stay safe in care with Covid-19.
It is of paramount importance now more than ever to protect our care workers, who are doing important jobs on the frontline to save lives and protect us all. From working in NHS settings, to care homes, to social workers continuing to support the most vulnerable, we need to work together to stay safe.
As the Coronavirus pandemic evolves over time, we don't yet know the lasting effects and how long we may all be affected. Setting guidelines and following them consistently is the only way to stay safe and still be able to work effectively. With this in mind, we have put together four easy rules to follow to stay safe in care settings. These can apply to both Covid-19 facing wards, and general healthcare settings.
Four ways to stay safe in care settings.
- Use technology
- Safely interact with others
- Review your organisational steps
- Review your personal steps
Use technology where you can.
Although in most care settings it is important to have the appropriate number of staff present, it’s important to consider how you are using available technology to limit personal interaction where possible. A simple way to prevent interaction with others is to physically distance yourselves from them. In order to stay connected and working we need to rely on technology to communicate and interact.
For example, social workers could hold virtual sessions with service users. We have seen examples of doctors using video calls to share information with colleagues and patients.
Safely interact with others.
Think about the steps you're taking to enable people to interact safely, and what you could be doing? For example, even though it is going to be necessary to have care workers on site interacting with patients closely, there are still methods that you can take to ensure that you are limiting contact, and preventing the spread of the virus where possible. For example, you can consider:
- Caps on the number of people allowed in the setting at one time
- Limiting or preventing non-care staff entering the setting
- Staggered breaks for workers
- Avoid gatherings in the canteen/welfare areas
- Online/virtual inductions for new workers
- Bring own food/drink on site
- Not sharing utensils
- Avoid enclosed spaces where possible i.e use stairs over lifts
- Monitoring health statistics of workers to ensure a healthy workforce (i.e temperature)
- If possible, offer onsite accommodation to care workers who are working with Covid-19 patients - this will limit the chances of the disease spreading to workers’ families. The Nightingale hospital sites in London and Birmingham are already doing this
A lot of these points may seem straightforward but aren't always easy to implement. For example, if you run a care home you may want to consider limiting visits from friends and family - only allowing visits for exceptional cases. You could set up video calls between service users and family members where you can to continue contact virtually, and if visits are necessary, provide visitors with PPE equipment to limit the chances of cross contamination.
It is worth setting some time to plan out how ideas like the above can be achieved organisationally, and to structure settings to be able to adapt to the new operations.
Review your organisational steps.
As we have already mentioned, it is important to consider additional steps your organisation may need to take to minimise risk, and to reduce and control contamination. It is also important to continue to review what you are doing, and be ready to adapt your processes where needed as the situation evolves over the coming weeks.
We suggest following these bullet points to create and manage your plan for success in protecting your workers and service users:
- Set up additional cleaning stations using disinfectant
- Ensuring single-use PPE is disposed of securely and reusable PPE is thoroughly washed and not shared
- Roll-out guidance and information material on appropriate conduct to your settings and workers
- Set up additional sanitation facilities (toilets, bins, washing stations)
- Plan shifts to ensure minimal contact between workers where possible
- Implement a regimented policy to adhere to if your workers are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
General improvements to hygiene will ensure a more safe and healthy working environment. The correct use of PPE and enhanced security measures related to hygiene can help improve the risk of contamination.
Review your personal steps.
It is also key to review what steps you are taking to keep safe whilst at work, and what you are advising your care workers to do too. Some advice we would suggest is:
- Travel to work alone
- Avoid public transport where possible
- Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Ensure social distancing/2 metres apart where possible
- Wash hands on arrival
- Carry hand sanitiser at all times
The above points all relate to the government guidance on staying safe from coronavirus risk. These should be relayed to all workers and assumed yourself to ensure good practice of hygiene control.
We understand that implementing these measures in care settings is particularly difficult. However, every little bit of effort helps to limit the spread of the disease, and will help you to keep your workers and service users as safe as possible.