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Testing Times - BLOG by the Department of Health and Social Care

Outbreaks of resilience

To say that the coronavirus pandemic represents the most challenging times ever faced by our amazing care home sector – and the social care system more broadly – feels almost like an understatement.

For teams and residents in our care homes, it has meant a radical change in day to day life, adapting to a situation none of us expected and one we all know has no defined end date.

I want to say, upfront, how proud I am of all of my teams, our residents, and their friends and families, for bearing this extraordinary burden with such compassion, fortitude and understanding. Together, as businesses and individuals, we are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe, well and protected.

Since the early days of the outbreak, much of the country’s shared anxiety and worry has focused on how, when and where the virus is transmitted. One thing is abundantly clear to me: the more we learn about how it spreads, the more we can do to protect ourselves and others from infection.

That’s why Four Seasons Health Care is delighted to participate in a new research study to determine how outbreaks occur in residential care settings and identify factors which may help detect, prevent or mitigate them.

Maintaining the safety, health and happiness of residents and care team members remains a priority. [Picture taken prior to lockdown]

Joint endeavour

The research, carried out in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social CareUniversity College London and NHS Data Foundry, will draw on results from whole care home testing and previous studies to build as full a picture as possible of how outbreaks play out over time within the same home.

Four Seasons Health Care residents and teams are now part of a 10,000 strong test ‘population’ spread across more than 100 care homes in England, all of whom will be given coronavirus tests.

The study will see trained phlebotomists attend care homes at agreed times to administer blood (antibody) tests. Meanwhile, our teams will administer regular swab tests on themselves and residents.

These tests – to be repeated at regular intervals throughout the year - will be given to all those who give consent. We have been very clear with everyone in our homes, offices and attached facilities that their agreement, comfort and convenience will be prioritised at all times.

In addition to ensuring we have consent from all participants, we are also committed to continuing to provide all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), while maintaining meticulous record keeping of those presenting symptoms and dedicated areas for storing testing kits.

Over time, this study will give researchers a detailed picture of coronavirus infection in care homes in England and help care providers like us react even more quickly to contain or prevent outbreaks.

Four Season care homes have always been caring, supportive and person-centred environments, even before the first UK cases were announced. [Picture taken prior to lockdown]

Building a picture to boost protection

I’m very proud that our homes are playing a part in helping inform future plans to manage the pandemic. The data gathered from us and the many other care homes participating across England will influence future guidance on social distancing, promote positive behaviour change and, we hope, make the transition out of lockdown smoother, safer and long lasting.

One thing is certain, this pandemic has changed the way we work, care for and protect those who most need our support. I’m proud to say our homes have always been caring, supportive and person-centred environments, even before the first case was announced on our shores over five months ago.

As we continue to fight this virus, we re-dedicate our efforts each day to every person within our homes  – and that’s a positive outcome we should all cherish, whatever the future may hold.


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