Health and safety first
We continue to prioritise our residents and staff welfare and safety and this will remain our number one focus throughout the rest of 2021 using the latest Public Health England guidance and NHS advice. We monitor the situation extremely carefully on an ongoing basis and consult with healthcare professionals, our staff, and our residents’ families before changing our policy. It isn’t a decision we take likely, and all decisions follow a full risk assessment.
We’re hopeful and positive about the future as we feel proud of how we’ve managed a difficult and evolving situation putting in place robust measures and contingency plans from the very outset. We’re proud of everything all our staff have accomplished over the last year and how wonderfully supportive our residents and their families have been.
Welcoming new residents
We’re welcoming new residents into our home and will follow our health and safety COVID-19 onboarding guidelines for all new residents. Health and safety at Birchwood House include a range of one-off and ongoing measures and initiatives.
Vaccinations completed for staff and residents
In a major milestone in the battle against COVID-19, we’re pleased to confirm that staff and residents have had their second Astra Zeneca vaccine. Whilst this is an important step for Birchwood residents, staff, and their families, we continue to adhere to strict infection control procedures for the safety of everyone.
We’re fortunate to have regular visits from local GP’s, usually every Monday and Friday to check upon residents and support anyone who may need it.
Rigorous staff testing three times a week
We have a tight procedure when it comes to testing our staff every week before they even arrive at Birchwood House from their own homes. All staff are tested three times a week.
We have the flexibility for every staff member to test themselves at home twice a week alongside a PCR test taken and analysed by the NHS. In addition, all residents are tested once a month.
Ensuring a healthy stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is part of our everyday life. We continue to ensure we have a large reliable supply and were lucky to have close supplier relationships with some of the best suppliers in the country early on before PPE became mandatory.
Family visits indoors and outdoors
We know how important it is for our residents to maintain close contact and connection with their families. From July 2021, indoor visits are allowed in care homes allowing unlimited relatives/ friends to enter the home for a visit in our communal lounge but limited to two nominated visitors per visit. Visits can only take place by appointment and are 30 minutes in duration.
Appointments must be arranged at least 48 hours in advance, and you can’t block book, to allow everyone a chance to visit. On arrival, you’ll be given a LFD test and asked to wait in your car until we have the result, which will take approximately 30 minutes. A negative result must be obtained for the visit to go ahead.
You’ll then be escorted to the lounge by a member of staff where your relative/ friend will be waiting. The visit will be supervised by a member of staff. As we’re sure you’ll understand, guests won’t be permitted to walk around the home and this means that toilet facilities won’t be available.
As the Government guidelines state, you can hold hands with your relative/ friend but no close physical contact, such as hugging, as this increases the risk of passing infection on. Chairs will be positioned to allow handholding but also maintain a safe distance. Any breach of protocol will result in the visit immediately ending. It is our priority to keep all our residents and staff safe.
All visits will be closely monitored and a member of staff will be available on hand to ensure these run seamlessly and everyone follows the strict guidelines to protect all our residents and staff. Extensive cleaning will take place before and after each visit.
Outdoor visits encouraged
Visits outside can remain to go ahead, subject to the weather, but PPE must be worn on all outside visits. We enabled our care home early on since the pandemic to offer a COVID-secure visiting area for close friends and family and it has proved extremely popular. As such we will continue to offer this facility for those that would prefer to visit in a more controlled outdoor setting. Social distancing with non-physical contact is maintained using a perspex divider screen and clear communication achieved using a two-way microphone. Separate entrance and exit points are used by the residents and visitors. This is accompanied by extensive cleaning.
We’re also able to offer general outdoor visits using the same procedures as our indoor visitation allowing closer contact with your loved ones, whilst wearing full PPE.
Taking residents on outdoor visits
New government guidance from May 2021 allowed you to take a resident out on an external trip away from the care home. You can take your relative to an outside area, but it can only be with nominated relatives and a maximum of two people per visit. The visit can be to a family garden or a suitable outdoor area where they won’t come into close contact with other people.
All visits must be booked at least 48 hours in advance. You’ll need to arrive 30 minutes before to have an LFD test and wait in the car until we have the result. Your relative will have had a test too. You’ll both need to wear a mask in the car. You can only take your relative inside to use a toilet and then the visit must continue outside. During the visit, you can hold hands but have no close contact such as hugging. On return, your relative will be tested on day three.
Pulling the stops out with Birchwood events
Ensuring everyone enjoys their time in the home is something we work hard to achieve. Whilst our usual calendar of events and activities was initially on hold for a short period, we’ve successfully managed to hold regular in-house activities and seasonal events with the guidance provided and are proud of the events we’ve been able to run. We go to great lengths to plan and run our events ensuring everyone takes part and has fun and even have a dedicated team member.
Over the last year, we’ve run six events ranging from a harvest hoedown and BBQ, a winter wonderland, complete with a snow machine and an Alice In Wonderland afternoon tea as featured in The Kent & Sussex Courier. Most recently we ran a medieval event where our residents got to meet Daisy the Horse.
Our events provide much-needed escapism for everyone and break up the day-to-day routines bringing everyone together. We try to run as many of our events outdoors in our beautiful gardens, which provide the perfect backdrop and are safer for everyone. Find out more about our events.
At Birchwood, we’re determined to do everything we can to give our residents a personalised approach where we put loving care at the heart of everything we do. Our Birchwood Promise acts as a constant reminder of what caring at Birchwood means.
Last autumn we launched Birchwood Smiles as featured in Care Industry News. A simple and effective initiative that our staff take part in across the care home and our home care business. We’re delighted to permanently show the smiling faces of our staff behind their masks. Aptly named Birchwood Smiles, every team member wears a lanyard around their neck, with a large picture of their smiling face on it. This helps them engage with residents and clients, even when wearing full PPE.
So much of caring is about making a human connection and we want to remind our residents that there’s always a smiling face not far away.
Birchwood House has a supply of tablets for residents to use at any time. We actively encourage residents to stay in touch and video call their families and are always happy to set this up.
Most recently we’ve introduced a new look e-newsletter as we understand how important it is for loved ones to feel more in touch with the home. Plus you can always see what we’ve been up to on social media too.
Exercise and well-being
We understand the importance of exercise and well-being at Birchwood. Whilst some of our usual activities were reduced at the start of the pandemic, we’ve been fortunate to keep residents mobile both indoors and outdoors.
We have beautiful grounds at Birchwood, set in nine acres of the countryside so residents are always able to go for a walk and feel they are escaping the home. Popular walks include a gentle stroll observing all the wildlife and flowers. Our residents love to see all the nature we have the privilege of sharing our home with including deer and rabbits.
Zoe, our Activities Co-Ordinator runs balloon tennis and chair exercises for our residents. There are also plans for flower arranging, basket weaving, and candle making. Find out more here.
FAQS ABOUT COVID-19
Have you had any instances of COVID-19 in the home?
Yes, we are fortunate so far in that these cases have been isolated incidents. Last year we had two isolated cases that we contained immediately. In both cases the residents were asymptomatic and the cases were detected during a routine test performed on all residents. No staff members or residents caught the virus and our contingency plans immediately came into play.
What is the progress on vaccination?
We’re pleased to report that our staff and residents have received their second vaccination.
Can I visit my relative indoors as well as outdoors?
Yes. Resident’s families and friends are free to visit outdoors as well as indoors as of May 2021. All families will need to prebook, wear PPE and have a negative test before visiting. Tests will be provided by us and will take approximately 30 minutes before we can confirm the result. Two family members will be able to visit the premises at any one time and extensive cleaning will take place before and after each visit.
Can I take my relative out of the care home?
You‘re now able to take a resident out of the care home. You can take your relative to an outside area with nominated relatives and this is limited to two per visit. The visit can be to a family garden or a suitable outdoor area.
What are the arrangements for visiting relatives who are at the end of life?
Each resident’s family can have one nominated next of kin. You can visit your family member and we will do everything possible to support you during this difficult time. All family members would need to complete a test on arrival and show a negative result as well as wear the full PPE that we provide.
What are you doing to help residents stay in touch with their families?
In addition to indoor and outdoor visits, we have tablets for residents to use. You can arrange a video call any time and our staff will be happy to help with this.
What are your plans to maintain staffing levels in the event of a new outbreak?
We have robust contingency plans in place and are confident that we would always be able to staff the home adequately. We are also fortunate to have access to our sister homecare organisation Birchwood Care Services who could always support us during any emergencies.
What are the procedures if my relative contracts COVID-19?
We will notify you immediately and we will continue to update you frequently.
Are your staff wearing masks and other PPE?
Yes, at all times as per the Public Health Guidelines.
Are you testing residents and staff?
Yes, this is a critical part of life now in the home and won’t be compromised. Staff are tested three times a week and all residents are tested once a month.
Have you changed your cleaning procedures?
Yes. Infection control is paramount and we clean more frequently as per the guidelines.
Will GPs continue their rounds at the home?
Yes. They visit twice a week wearing full PPE and also following full guidelines.
Will activities continue for residents?
Yes, we continue to run a full events schedule but this is now running in-house to ensure the safety of residents and staff. Our staff have been able to step up and use other skills and experience they have. For example, one of our care staff also trained in hairdressing.
We have not permitted any external visits from health and beauty and exercise and well-being professionals up until now. We will continue to monitor the situation and perform full risk assessments before we change our policies.
Will my relative be able to attend routine hospital appointments?
Yes, residents have been able to attend routine hospital appointments with a member of staff to accompany them. They would then need to isolate for a short period if they were an in-patient.
Will you continue to take in new residents?
Yes, we have begun taking in new residents since last Autumn and follow a strict onboarding policy. This involves self-isolating for up to 14 days to protect all our residents and staff. All new residents will be tested on arrival and will need to have a negative result.
We try to make this difficult period as comfortable as possible for new residents using tablets for them to video call their families every day. Each new resident also has a dedicated member of staff to look after them and help settle them in.
How prepared are you for further outbreaks?
We always remain vigilant and remain prepared and on standby should an outbreak occur in the future. Through infection control, PPE, social distancing within the home for staff and residents and now with the vaccination protection too, we’re confident we have taken every step to reduce new outbreaks.