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LESS COVID: innovative research project launches its findings today

by Joe Caretalk

Liz Jones, Policy Director at the National Care Forum

The National Care Forum (NCF), the leading representative organisation for not-for-profit social care
providers, and the University of Leeds are today launching the findings from research into the
experiences of frontline care home and NHS staff caring for older people with COVID-19 in the first
few months of the pandemic. The report – LESS COVID: Learning by Experience and Supporting the
Care Home Sector during the COVID-19 pandemic – provides an account of key lessons learnt, so far,
by frontline care home and NHS staff.

Funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, this project worked directly with frontline care home staff and
frontline NHS staff to capture the lessons they have learnt about the symptoms, progression and
management of COVID-19 in older people (aged over 65 years) in England.
The research initiated by the NCF presents helpful strategies to manage the care and support of
older people in care homes during subsequent waves of COVID-19 outbreaks. The NCF who were
very keen to learn as quickly as possible from the early days of the pandemic and to share this
learning to support the sector.

Liz Jones, Policy Director at the National Care Forum says:
”This research is essential reading for all those involved in providing care for older people in this new
world of COVID-19. It highlights the lessons learnt from the frontline of care at the height of the
pandemic and offers some valuable insights and recommendations to help us respond effectively to
future waves of COVID-19.”

“The willingness of our colleagues to share their reflections while under considerable pressure of the
first wave demonstrates the strong and responsible leadership in the care sector.”

“This research was inspired by the daily conversations with our NCF members who were very eager
to share their rapidly emerging learning and expertise in responding to COVID-19 in care homes. It is
not simply theory but real-life experience of staff on the frontline, both in care homes and the NHS.
It looks in detail at the clinical presentation and illness trajectory of COVID-19 in older people, what
had worked well, or what more was needed, for providing the best care and treatment and lessons
learnt for supporting older people in care homes. The practical ideas and actions suggested will help
us to find better ways to manage the virus to inform our future response in subsequent waves.”

“We hope that this research will be of value to both care homes that have already experienced
COVID-19 and those that have not yet experienced an outbreak of the virus.

The findings of the report also highlight systemic issues associated with underfunding, limited
integration across health and social care and a lack of wider recognition and value of the
contribution of the care home sector and (importantly) its staff. This pandemic should prompt
government and society to address these long-standing issues.

Jones continues:
“Many of the suggestions in this research involve actions that can be grasped by the sector;
however, there are levers and actions needed that are beyond the control of the sector and need
support and action from government. These include resolving the ongoing testing and PPE supply
uncertainties; working in genuine partnership with the sector and putting the individual needs of
older people at the heart of policymaking.”

Karen Spilsbury, Professor of Nursing at the University of Leeds and Academic Director of NICHELeeds says:
“This work represents an important partnership between researchers at the University of Leeds and
the National Care Forum (NCF), working with care home colleagues.”

“Our research team has a large portfolio of work with care homes which includes NICHE-Leeds, a
partnership between care organisations and academia. Our team were well positioned to undertake
this work because they understand the care home context, value and respect those working in the
sector and have experience of partnership working to address need and to co-create work with the
sector to promote relevance, engagement and implementation.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for research with and for the care home sector.
This partnership with NCF enabled us to respond quickly to the concerns of their members and to
generate findings with practical relevance.”

“Staff working in care homes have such an important role caring for some of the most vulnerable
members of our society. It has been our privilege to work with sector colleagues.”

Susan Kay, Director of the Dunhill Medical Trust says:
“We’ve all been impacted by the COVID crisis – but older adults have been most severely
affected. Capturing lessons learnt about the symptoms, progression and management of this viral
infection in the older population and sharing these with care homes that have not yet experienced
an outbreak of the virus is crucial. We have been pleased to be able to support this work and hope
that its recommendations can really make a difference.”

As winter approaches and the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 is very likely, health and care
colleagues are strongly encouraged to familiarise themselves with the content and
recommendations in the report.

Access the full research here: https://bit.ly/2GPloab

Access a summary here: https://bit.ly/3iCcyK7

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