“Amplifying the voices of relatives with loved ones in Care Homes across Sussex – our message to MPs and Councillors”

Amplifying the voices of Relatives with loved ones in Care Homes across Sussex
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The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on care homes, carers and care home residents has received considerable coverage in recent months. Concerns about infection among vulnerable people has led to many care home residents having little or no contact with their loved ones. This remains a significant issue across Sussex where there are approximately 800 Care Homes.

One Healthwatch in Sussex response to Care Home issues has been the hosting of a webinar on the 10th November. This event was attended by 90 people, made up of members of the public, representative bodies, commissioners and front-line staff from health and care services. It explored the impact and potential solutions to the separation of care home residents and their loved ones in a pandemic.

Healthwatch in Sussex appreciates the efforts of MPs and local councillors in maintaining a spotlight on care home issues and we believe that the findings and recommendations from our webinar can inform the effort to balance safe practice and essential contact between loved ones. 

Webinar participants heard numerous powerful accounts of the impact and consequences of enforced separation from frail and often confused family members.

One relative, who, a week prior to this event was interviewed at length on BBC Radio Sussex, shared her moving account of being separated from her mother for 17 weeks. Her distress at being prevented from providing care and support to her mother, and the sense of a mother who no longer recognises her daughter, is an experience that could be felt by any of us.

Families also spoke about their concerns and possible solutions moving forwards including:

  • How the adoption of ‘Key Worker’ status for a family member or friend would contribute significantly to sustaining safe visits. In a live poll on the night, 85% of people agreed that relatives should be given ‘key worker’ status. 
     
  • The potential role of increased COVID-19 testing in helping relatives keep in touch with loved ones.
     
  • The urgent need to clarify and confirm the options available for visiting care home residents over the Christmas period.

The prospect of a potential vaccine, and how a roll-out starting with Care Home residents and staff in the first tranche would be a significant turning point for families.

A commitment was made on the night by health and care representatives that the details and practicalities of the proposal for expanding ‘key worker’ status should be explored as a priority to achieve a consistent approach across Sussex.  

“It was a privilege to be asked to engage with the families of Care Home residents on the Healthwatch Webinar. They gave powerful, insightful and touching stories of the trauma and upset that COVID19 has caused them and their loved ones. I also heard about some wonderfully caring Homes and staff who have gone the extra mile.It gave me a lot to think about and will help shape some of the support I give to the Care Homes going forward.”
— Dr Mathew Thomas, a GP who gave a presentation at the webinar, shared his impression of the whole event:

Experiences and views that were shared at the event have been recorded and will be drawn together, shared with participants and published to inform future decision-making for care homes.

The webinar was recorded and is available for anyone to watch by clicking the following link:

Healthwatch in Sussex will also publish a webinar report which will include details from all the Question and Answers sessions by the end of November.

We are keen to work collaboratively with all MPs and Councillors to amplify the voices of families and friends with loved ones in care homes across Sussex. If you require more details about the event or wish to discuss these themes further then please contact your local Healthwatch using the details below.

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove – Lead Officer: David Liley

Tel: 01273 23 40 40

Email:  david@healthwatchbrightonandhove.co.uk

For other contacts in Sussex:

Healthwatch East Sussex – Lead Officer: John Routledge

Tel: 0333 101 4007

Email: john.routledge@escv.org.uk

Healthwatch West Sussex – Lead Officer: Katrina Broadhill

Tel: 0300 012 0122

Email:  katrina.broadhill@healthwatchwestsussex.co.uk

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