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CARE HEROES AWARDS SHORTLIST: Care Home Hero (Team), sponsored by CoolCare

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This category honours the care professionals who pulled together as a team to not only ensure the safety of their clients, but also to support each other’s wellbeing during a time of crisis.

Teams in this category demonstrated enormous dedication, self-sacrifice and bravery by often leaving their families to move in with their residents so that they were properly shielded and providing outstanding care in a mentally and emotionally challenging environment.

The finalists are:

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Roseland Court, Tregony, Truro, Cornwall, HC-One

NOMINATED BY Roseland Court Registered Manager, Michelle Wray

The team at Roseland Court Care Home had a horrific outbreak of COVID-19 in April, losing 16 residents.  The team led by Michelle Wray was reduced by 50% as staff were isolating.  This meant that lots of staff took on different roles to ensure the smooth running of the home.  Staff and managers slept on site to cover shifts, and not only did staff contract COVID we lost half of our home through this time, sometimes resulting in three deaths per day , which put great emotional pressure on the staff, however, all held together with the manager to support each other.

I believe lots of care teams are amazing, however, this team dealt with everything with such care and resilience. The situation would have broken most teams, however, they have loved the residents and families as their own, shown great compassion to each other and with regular debriefing and group sessions have managed to move on and develop an unbreakable bond, which is evident from the minute you walk in the home. Love and laughter and tears have kept us going and lots of tea and talking.  I think this shows the outside world how professional nursing homes are and the staff employed there are.  They are on low wages and could easily have walked away but their dedication to the home, each other and the residents and families has been outstanding in more ways than I can express.

The Croft Care Home, Amersham, Ambient Support

NOMINATED BY Ambient marketing and communications assistant, Yasmin Hatfield

The team at The Croft Care Home were hit with two waves of the virus at their service early on in the pandemic. Despite rigorous contingency plans, infection prevention control in place, and strict lockdown rules adhered to, an outbreak occurred with five dementia residents becoming unwell in a matter of days. Staff were also contracting the virus. The team did not cower away from the challenge ahead of them.

Despite contracting the virus herself, Louise, the Home Manager, continued to support her team remotely, saying: “The amount of information required from authorities and loved ones was overwhelming but obviously essential. I did this from home. I wanted my team to know I was with them giving the best support I could even if I was having to work remotely.”

Staff at The Croft formed incredibly strong bonds during this period, taking each day as it came, meeting early morning to discuss the highest risk residents in their care. With dedication, grit, stamina and deep compassion, they gradually supported and cared for those that were unwell, supported families that lost loved ones and day by day, week by week, the immediate crisis was resolved until there were no longer individuals with the virus at the home. The team at The Croft are an example of excellence in the care sector.

St Giles Care Home, Birmingham, Avery Healthcare

NOMINATED BY Avery, Commercial Director, Mark Danis

Debbie Rowley and her team at St Giles Care home in Birmingham took on the challenge during the pandemic to run a COVID-positive ward, with amazing results. The 18-bed Sheldon Suite at the home became a place of safety for coronavirus-positive patients discharged from hospital, with 27 residents passing through the unit. Twenty six recovered residents were safely discharged, either back home or to other community settings, with only one passing away (who was end-of-life pre-COVID, nursed to recovery from COVID, moved into a permanent end-of-life bed in the home and later passed away). It’s an outstanding record of achievement and dedication.

The group of staff who volunteered to move onto the suite had never worked in such an environment before, but nevertheless, accepted the challenge. Deputy Manager, Faye Gailey, even moved her two-year-old daughter to her parents and did not see her until the COVID cases were clear. Clinical lead Jade Kray was supported by care staff Julie Jackson, Donetta McDonnell, Janice Green, Daniel Glennon and Bernadette Whatmore. There were also nominated cleaners and therapists dedicated to the unit.

At the annual West Midlands Care Association Excellence in Care Awards in July, Debbie was announced as the COVID Hero category winner, with her nomination supported by Julia Phillips, Joint Strategic Commissioner (Older People and Dementia) at Solihull Council.

Chestnut Court, Dagenham, Maria Mallaband Care Group

NOMINATED BY MMCG Sales & Marketing Co-ordinator, Sharon Rayner

Chestnut Court Care Home was one of the first care homes in the county and the first within MMCG to experience an outbreak of COVID.  At this time there was no real awareness of the virus and minimal government guidance had been published so every step they took was innovative at the time.

At the end of February a visitor engaged with residents during an activity session and was diagnosed with COVID-19.  The home was advised of the result but also advised that there was very little risk to the home.  COVID-19 started to take hold in the home from 9 March.

What the staff team achieved in such a short space of time is nothing short of miraculous, everyone stepped up to the mark and faced the challenge head on to protect the residents and each other.

Over the coming week, 23 residents were diagnosed with COVID-19 in 10 days and 36 staff were diagnosed over two weeks. In total 50% of staff and 50% of residents experienced symptoms, but due to the immediate actions taken, other residents and staff were not infected and the home was clear of COVID-19 by 8 April.  None of the residents have tested positive for COVID since.

Home manager Claire May said: “It was a very difficult time and it’s still raw for many, but we are not frightened of this virus and if we had to do it all again, with this team there would be no hesitation.”

Gracewell of Salisbury, Gracewell Healthcare

NOMINATED BY Head of Marketing at Sunrise Senior Living UK and Gracewell Healthcare, Jen Walker

Gracewell of Salisbury was hit hard during the initial outbreak of the pandemic, with multiple positive cases effecting both residents and team members. This put immense strain on the team during this period, with up to 35% of the team either infected or in isolation at any one time. In response, those team members who were able to continue working took on additional shifts and extra responsibilities to remove the need of using agency staff. By acting in this selfless way, our team reduced the likelihood of the virus entering our home again, reducing the possibility of the situation deteriorating.

Furthermore, by taking on additional shifts, our residents were cared for by familiar team members, giving them continuity in this difficult time. Yet taking on these additional responsibilities often led to sacrifices within their own lives, with many spending time away from their families. For example, one of the team’s Registered Nurses did not see their child for two months in order to reduce the risk of the virus spreading into the care home. In addition, numerous team members chose to stay in hotels or move their children to live with relatives to further insulate the care home from COVID-19.

After pulling through this challenging period, the team now see each other as family, having worked together in this remarkable way.

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The author Lee Peart

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