This page contains the latest known information and advice for adult care providers in Somerset.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, as is the advice and support available.  Please return to this page regularly.

National lockdown: Stay at Home

Read what you can and cannot do (Cabinet Office, updated 22/02/2021)

Report a care setting COVID-19 outbreak
If you suspect or have a coronavirus outbreak in a care setting (one or more resident/s or staff affected), contact Public Health England via swhpt@phe.gov.uk immediately and kept the team informed of any escalations.




Contact Us
If you have a COVID-19 concern or query affecting your service, or are not receiving email briefings, please contact our Incident Room via ASCCOVID19@somerset.gov.ukYou can also phone us on 07790 577338.

Please note – Providers should continue to use Somerset Direct for individual cases / individual escalations at this time.

Fang Tian Ft-045a Ffp3 Masks Recall – Immediate Action Required

We have received a notification from the Department of Health and Social Care that it is unable to confirm that the item meets the necessary technical specifications at this time and have taken the decision to recall the product to avoid unexpected use whilst investigations continue.  Please refer to this letter for further information.

Webinars:

Local Alert Level for Care Home Visits:

The care home visit alert level that has previously been published on this page has been suspended for the duration of the current national lockdown.

Guidance on the Coronavirus is changing on a very frequent basis to reflect the latest advice and developing situation.

All Government updates can be found here:

Further information of particular interest and relevance to adult social care providers is listed here:

Public Health England Resources

Staff Vaccinations

As you will all be aware, the provision of three vaccines against Covid-19 has now received approval from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and as such we are now in the process of undertaking vaccination programme in Somerset.  A link to the regulatory approval for each vaccine has been included below:

Amongst our highest priority is the delivery of the vaccines to care home staff.  Through vaccinating all our staff, we aim to help protect individuals from becoming unwell with, or dying from, Covid-19 disease, and it is therefore vital that we communicate the importance of this programme with staff who work with some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Vaccination is key to reducing the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks occurring in the home.

Through the clinical trials on many tens of thousands of people people there were no significant adverse events.  Some people did experience a painful or heavy arm where they had the injection, felt tired or had a mild fever for a couple of days. These are common side effects following any vaccination, and staff in the vaccination centres will be mindful of these and do all they can to help staff remain as comfortable as possible following their vaccination.

During the vaccination delivery the vaccination teams will maintain the full range of measures to keep everyone safe from Covid-19, staff giving the vaccine will be wearing personal protective equipment and will abide by all the necessary cleaning and disinfection requirements.

We have included links bellow to the patient leaflets for you to share with your staff, these should address most of the questions that staff may have.  Vaccination is not mandatory, but we urgently need your help to encourage everyone to accept the vaccination, it not only protects them, but it significantly helps us all keep those most vulnerable in Somerset safe.

Please remember that the vaccine is designed to prevent serious illness and death from Covid-19.  However, even if you have had the vaccine, you can still catch it and might still be able to pass it on, so the hands, face, space guidance must still be followed to protect yourselves and others.

Social care workforce vaccinations

We are very pleased to say that the vast majority of social care workforce vaccinations are now complete for first dose, and want to say a huge thanks to you all for making this possible.  We do apologise for some cancellations that required us to rebook, but this was due to circumstances beyond our control with supply of vaccines.  As we approach the end of first dose vaccinations we are continuing to have to react to availability of vaccine and vaccinators and as such are now having to cancel appointments made at Musgrove Park Hospital for the 13th and 14th February.  We are though opening up availability for those staff to be vaccinated at the Taunton Racecourse, and all those affected have been emailed and a text sent to the mobile number provided.

In order to pick up the remaining staff who have yet to be vaccinated we are opening up provision through both the Taunton Racecourse and the Bath and West Showground.  Staff can self present once they have completed the request form at the link below.  We would ask that staff allow at least 24hrs between submitting the request and attending the two sites.  They will also need to provide ID which will be checked against the report that we will provide to the site on a daily basis.

Further information about booking a vaccination at Taunton Racecourse and the Bath and West Showground

From 11th February, initially for a period of 2 weeks, all eligible frontline care workers can also access their first vaccination via the National Booking Service. This provides an additional option for employers and eligible frontline social care workers to access an appointment at a time and place that is convenient for them. The National Booking Service can be accessed via: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirusvaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ or by phone: 119.

Please see this letter from Stuart Miller, Director of Adult Social Care Delivery at the Department of Health and Social Care for further information

If you have any questions or issues regarding vaccination please contact us at ASCCovid19@somerset.gov.uk and we will do all we can to support you.

Some important information:

  • Public Health Somerset has produced a ‘myth-buster’ sheet about some of the vaccine myths that we are aware of for you to share with your staff.
  • Please don’t contact your GP surgery to ask about vaccinations, they will contact you, unnecessary calls are jamming GP switchboards and as such are stopping people who need urgent appointments from getting through.
  • Please start now, if you haven’t already, compiling staff lists, we need Name, Date of Birth, GP practice, Mobile Number for each staff member.  Lists will be shared so that the Hospital Hubs can book staff in for injections.
  • We may contact you with very little notice, we do sincerely apologise for this, but vaccine is being sent to us without any pre-warning and as it arrives it simply must be used.
  • You cannot choose which vaccine you want, they are VERY SAFE and very effective.
  • The previous advice that anyone who carries an EpiPen or has a significant history of an anaphylactic-type reaction should not receive a vaccination has now been updated and now only contraindicates based on a specific allergy to one of the ingredients contained within the vaccine.  This new guidance has been developed following the vaccinations carried out in the UK so far and the ever growing evidence base this generates.

The only contra indications for the Astra Zeneca vaccine is hypersensitivity to any of the ingredients shown below:

      • L-Histidine
      • L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate
      • Magnesium chloride hexahydrate
      • Polysorbate 80
      • Ethanol
      • Sucrose
      • Sodium chloride
      • Disodium edetate dihydrate
      • Water for injections

Astra Zeneca vaccine exclusions are now individuals who:

      • Are less than 18 years of age
      • Have had a previous systemic allergic reaction (including immediate onset anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca or to any component of the vaccine or residues from the manufacturing process
      • Are pregnant
      • Are suffering from acute severe febrile illness (the presence of a minor infection is not a contraindication for vaccination)
      • Are participating in a clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccines
      • Have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the preceding 28 days
      • Have completed a course of COVID-19 vaccination

The only contra indications for the Pfizer vaccine is hypersensitivity to any of the ingredients shown below.

      • This vaccine contains polyethylene glycol/macrogol (PEG) as part of ALC-0159
      • ALC-0315 = (4-hydroxybutyl) azanediyl)bis (hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)
      • ALC-0159 = 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide
      • 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine
      • Cholesterol
      • Potassium chloride
      • Potassium dihydrogen phosphate
      • Sodium chloride
      • Disodium hydrogen phosphate dihydrate
      • Sucrose
      • Water for injections

Pfizer vaccine exclusions are now individuals who:

      • Are less than 16 years of age
      • Have had a previous systemic allergic reaction (including immediate onset anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 or to any component of the vaccine or residues from the manufacturing process
      • Have a history of immediate-onset anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs or unexplained anaphylaxis
      • Are pregnant
      • Are suffering from acute severe febrile illness (the presence of a minor infection is not a contraindication for vaccination)
      • Are participating in a clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccines
      • Have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the preceding 21 days
      • Have completed a course of COVID-19 vaccination

It is important that we look to vaccinate as many staff as possible, we do appreciate some are nervous, but these vaccines ate incredibly safe.  Although it is true that they were completed in record time, we had a head start, Covid-19 is a Coronavirus and we have been working on Coronavirus vaccines for many years.  Vaccines are normally worked on by small groups of scientists with limited funding and infra-structure; this has been an international programme with unlimited resource, worked on by hundreds of scientists 24/7.

No staff who are currently symptomatic or isolating should attend for vaccination until such time as their isolation period ends.  Staff should attend individually and not share transport to the hospital.  Staff will need to wear a face covering when being vaccinated.  All staff will need to be registered with a GP and have an NHS Number (if staff can’t access their NHS Number it can be looked up on the day).

It is important that staff have access to and read the patient advice leaflets for further details of indications and contra-indications

General information about COVID-19 vaccines

Leaflets:

Videos:

Vaccination Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Please click to expand to view the FAQs

Q: Can I have it if I’m vegan?
A:  Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is total synthetic – no animal products are included in the excipients or in the production (e.g. chicken eggs).  No cell line (human or animal) have been used in the development or production so is believed to be suitable for anyone with ethical (e.g. vegetarian, vegan, animal rights or pro-life) or religious concerns regarding some components or methods of production of some medicines.

Q:  I’m allergic to prawns / shellfish and last time I had the tiniest bit was quite ill but I have never been issued with an epi-pen. Can I have it still or is it too risky
A:  The exclusion is ‘severe allergic reaction’ by which we mean one severe enough to cause a hospital admission or need you to carry an EpiPen.  However, prescribers or vaccination centres have varying levels of caution regarding allergies (i.e. some centres may not administer the vaccine to people with less severe allergies) until we understand more about who and why a very people have had such a dramatic reaction to the vaccine – whether you can get a vaccine will depend on the individual clinical assessment of your particular allergy and it’s triggers by the healthcare professional prescribing or administering the vaccine .  The vaccine has been administered to EpiPen carriers without incident before the severe allergic reactions became apparent in the first few days of the vaccination programme.  It is hoped that as we get a better understanding of who and why a few people might react badly to the vaccine we will be able to be more specific about the allergies (and how severe they are) that stop people having the Pfizer BioNTech ‘Courageous®’ vaccine for their own safety: this could also mean that some EpiPen carriers who we’d currently advise shouldn’t have it may be able to have the Pfizer vaccine in the future.

Q:  Can I wait for the Oxford vaccine?
A:  At this time the Pfizer vaccine is the only approved vaccine, it is not known when or if any other vaccine will be provided.  Earlier vaccination saves lives.

Q:  What format does going to have the vaccination take i.e. queuing in small rooms with others?
A:  Social distanced at all times, you will be received details checked, a pre-screening check will be conducted prior to vaccination.  A short period of observation (15 minutes) will be conducted after the vaccination.  All staff involved will be wearing full PPE and you will be required to wear a face mask or visor covering your mouth and nose.

Q:  What forms or questions will I be asked?
A:  Confirmation of personal details, some brief conversations regarding past medical history.

Q:  Will I have to take evidence of my NHS number with me even though Linden House will have provided it?
A:  If you have your NHS number that would be helpful, but it can be looked up on the day.  You may be asked to take ID to confirm who you are.

Q:  Will I be given the appointment for the second jab after I have had my first and before I leave the vaccine centre?
A:  Your second appointment will be confirmed 21 days after the first vaccination, at some vaccination centres this will be sent to you after the vaccination. Other vaccination centres are booking the date and time of the second vaccination at the centre at the time of your first vaccination.

Q:  Will I be sent a reminder for the second jab?
A:  You will be given a card with the date and time of you appointment slot.

Q:  Will I have to wait for a while after I have had the vaccine before I can leave?
A:  A short period of observation – 15mins – will be required.

Q:  Can I choose to go with someone I know as I don’t like needles?
A:  You will need to attend as an individual, but please ensure the vaccination team are aware of the phobia you have for needles.

Q:  What happens if I can’t drive or don’t have access to a car?
A:  All Primary Care Centre clinics are in the local areas, so that the need to drive or take public transport is kept to a minimum. There are also some plans in development for Covid-19 vaccination to be provided at community pharmacies so this might be an option at some stage in the future but isn’t available yet.

Q:  Am I only given one chance to have the jab?
A:  Additional opportunities may be provided, but this can’t be guaranteed.

Q:  My employer is asking for my NHS number but I am not prepared to provide it. I am happy to take it with me when I am vaccinated. Is that ok?
A:  Yes

Q:  How is the government going to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine has had one? is there going to be one enormous database to ensure nobody is missed and if so, will this be able to be accessed by GPs, hospitals etc.
A:  This is a very complex process and as such there is some responsibility for individuals to identify themselves.  GP records will be used to identify all at risk individuals.

Q:  Will I get a Covid-19 passport / evidence that I have had the vaccine?
A:  No.

Guidance for health and social care staff who are caring for or treating a person who lacks mental capacity during the pandemic was updated by the Government on 12/01/2021 to include a new subsection on ‘Offering a vaccine to someone who lacks the relevant mental capacity’.  You can read this guidance here.

The ability of our Local Authority DoLS team to carry out assessments and provide authorisations is severely impaired by understandable access restrictions imposed by care homes and hospitals.

The following approach has been adopted (from 18 March 2020) as Somerset County Council policy for the immediate future:

  • The DoLS team will make case-by-case decisions about whether any particular DoLS assessments must be completed, and will negotiate this accordingly.
  • This is only likely to be required in cases where to leave a person without authorisation would put them at some significant risk of harm. There are likely to be safeguarding cases.
  • Other part-completed assessments or those awaiting allocation will be put on hold and monitored until the current situation improves.
  • The DoLS team will look for alternative methods for conducting assessments where face-to-face contact is not considered appropriate. Discussions are underway about how to conduct some DoLS assessments by phone, but we are also mindful of the need to avoid placing any unnecessary additional pressures upon the time of staff in care settings

Further guidance:  Covid-19, the MCA, DoLS and Best Interests: Rapid Read (NHS England and NHS Improvement, August 2020)

We have received guidance that support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where these are formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support, where it is necessary for these to take place in person. 

Day services are covered by the term ‘support group’, and are therefore can remain operating, and consequently day care providers are encouraged to continue to operate providing that the meet all the national government guidelines including:

  • A maximum of 15 people are supported in one building at any one time.  This cannot be a private dwelling. 
  • Social distancing is maintained and that the building remains Covid secure
  • Test and Trace information is recorded and confirmed
  • Providers liaise with people who use their service and their families to ensure that they do not fall in the over 60,  clinically vulnerable or extremely clinical vulnerable categories, and as a consequence may not want to attend their day care service during the lockdown period. If someone does not wish to attend their day care then providers should contact JCawley@somerset.gov.uk.

This advice is valid from 02/12/2020 onwards.  However, the Covid-19 pandemic is a changing situation and this advice may change if national guidance changes.

Should you require any further advice regarding the steps you should be taking to reduce the transmission risk, please email us at ASCCovid19@somerset.gov.uk.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has released guidance (updated 09/02/2021) commissioned by the Department for Health and Social Care to support day services for vulnerable adults to re-open or continue to operate in a safe manner. Somerset County Council asks that all day service providers follow this guidance released by SCIE, drawing attention to the request for transparency with service users, families, the Local Authority and other providers regarding risk assessments both business wide and for individuals. We have also produced a summary guide which we hope will be of use to affected services which covers aspects including funding, PPE and transport.

All Local Authorities were asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to submit and make public a letter setting out a short overview of its current care setting support activity and forward plans by 29 May 2020. The letter should be accompanied by a short capacity tracker template confirming the current level of provider access to the support offer (self-reported by local regulated care homes), as well as details of issues and support needs.

View the letter and template here

  • Webinar with Mel Lock on 05/06/2020

In this webinar Mel Lock (Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care) was joined by Tim Baverstock (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care) to discuss grant funding.  Alison Bell (Strategic Manager for Public Health) will also be joining to provide an update of Care Home Testing, and Dave Partlow (Strategic Manager for Adult Social Care) will provide an update on PPE.

    • View the webinar 
    • View Alison Bell’s presentation
    • Responses to questions that were followed-up after the webinar had finished:
      • Q:  Could we use the funding for staff who are shielding.  It states that staff who self-isolate can be claimed but does that cover shielding staff wages also?
        • A:  Shielding staff members can be allocated to the staff cost under the category of isolation and protection of staff and residents from infection/vulnerability – the Director of ASC has agreed this can be signed off against the grant determination.
      • Q:  Can you confirm when the Infection Control Grant Applies from
        • A:  Start date is on signing and return of the grant agreement and the condition states that it cannot be used for expenditure already incurred.
      • Q:  With regards to the grant, is there any further guidance regarding specifics of what you can/can’t spent the grant on?  e.g. Is capital expenditure allowed?  For example with regards to transport for staff.
        • A:  Capital spend is not excluded (provided it meets one of the categories). Please check if you are unsure.
    • The Department of Health and Social Care have also released an Infection Control Fund Question and Answer document 
  • Webinar with Mel Lock on 16/06/2020

In this webinar Mel Lock (Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care) was joined by Tim Baverstock (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care) to discuss the remaining 25% of Infection Control Grant monies. This webinar was primarily for:

    • Domiciliary care providers
    • LD supported living providers
    • Extra Care housing providers
  • Webinar with Mel Lock on 01/07/2020

In this webinar Mel Lock (Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care) was joined by Tim Baverstock (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care) and Dave Partlow (Strategic Manager, Adult Social Care COVID19 Response Team) to give an update on how we have progressed with exploring ways to help providers source PPE and use the bulk buying power of the council to do this at a favourable cost, and explained how providers will be able to purchase PPE going forward.

  • Webinar with Mel Lock on 25/09/2020

In this webinar Mel Lock (Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care) was joined by Tim Baverstock (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care), Alison Bell (Consultant in Public Health) and Dave Partlow (Strategic Manager, Adult Social Care COVID19 Response Team) to give an update on testing, the Adult Social Care Winter Plan that was published on 18/09/2020 and PPE.

  • Webinar with Mel Lock on 16/11/2020

In this webinar Mel Lock (Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care) was joined by Tim Baverstock (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care), Alison Bell (Consultant in Public Health), Dave Partlow (Strategic Manager, Adult Social Care COVID19 Response Team), Jo Howarth (NHS England and NHS Improvement) and Conner Dicks (NHS England and NHS Improvement) to give an update on the Covid-19 Vaccination programme, care home visits, the current public health position in Somerset and IPC Grant monies.

  • Webinar with Mel Lock on 18/12/2020

In this webinar Mel Lock (Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care) was joined by Tim Baverstock (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care), Alison Bell (Consultant in Public Health), Dave Partlow (Strategic Manager, Adult Social Care COVID19 Response Team) to give an update from Public Health  and on vaccinations, Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs), Care Home Visits, Business Continuity and out break planning, finance and grants and Christmas messages including #ConnectACareHome

  • Webinar with Mel Lock on 28/01/2021

In this webinar Mel Lock (Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care) was joined by Tim Baverstock (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care), Alison Bell (Consultant in Public Health), Dave Partlow (Strategic Manager, Adult Social Care COVID19 Response Team) to give an update from Public Health, and on outbreak management (planning for an outbreak, learning from recent experiences), Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) and testing, vaccinations, grant funding – Infection Control Grant 2 (ICF2) and testing funding support, proud to Care Somerset case study request and the Millbrook equipment return campaign and self-assessment portal.

  • Webinar with Mel Lock on 24/02/2021

In this webinar Mel Lock (Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care) was joined by Councillor David Fothergill (Leader of Somerset County Council), Tim Baverstock (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care), Alison Bell (Consultant in Public Health), Liz Green (Health Protection Practitioner) and Dave Partlow (Strategic Manager, Adult Social Care COVID19 Response Team), The agenda included:

    • Thank you from Cllr David Fothergill
    • Infection prevention and control – ventilation, cleaning etc.
    • Covid-positive discharges
    • Care home visiting guidance
    • Workforce capacity fund
    • Vaccinations
    • Flagging different vaccine brands
    • EU settlement
    • Any other business

The Government announced that it has moved to institute a policy of testing all residents prior to admission to care homes, starting with those being discharged from hospital with the NHS having the responsibility for testing these specific patients in advance of timely discharge, and has published Hospital discharge service guidance (02/02/2021) including leaflets for patients, the admission and care of people in care homes (updated 29/01/2021) and stepdown of infection control precautions within hospitals and discharging COVID-19 patients from hospital to home settings (18/12/2020).  On 18/02/2021 the national guidance was updated on Discharge into care homes: designated settings for people leaving hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are transferring to a care home (this includes working age adults who reside in a care home).

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed that this process has been implemented for all  patients that are admitted (for more than 24 hours).  If they are simply seen on AMU or within the Emergency Department they will not be tested ahead of discharge back to care homes.  Following testing, timing of discharge will be with the agreement of the care home in question regarding if the individual can be accepted to an isolated area within the care home pending test result.  The same process is applicable for community hospitals as well. The Somerset NHS Foundation Trust process is detailed in this flowchart (updated 21/04/2020)

We are seeking further information from Yeovil District Hospital and will add further detail on the arrangements once it becomes available.

The Somerset COVID-19 Local Outbreak Management Plan Dashboard is updated daily with the latest information about infection rates in Somerset.  To view the dashboard follow this link.

Local Guidance

Welcoming people into care homes from the community inevitably brings infection risk, but this is a risk that care homes can mitigate with appropriate control measures, tailored to each individual site. It is a risk that should always be balanced against the importance of visiting and the benefits it brings to care home residents and their families.  The key message remains to Stay at Home and as such visits should only be undertaken where the associated risks identify a critical need.

Visiting should be supported and enabled wherever it is possible to do so safely, in line with this guidance and within a care home environment that takes proportionate steps to manage risks.

In each care home, the registered manager is responsible for setting the visiting policy in that home, and they should do so on the basis of a dynamic risk assessment taking into consideration the needs of individuals within their home and with regard to the advice of the local Director of Public Health (DPH).

With the exception of visits within care settings with an active outbreak (up to 28 days from last positive test), care home visits may be undertaken on the following basis:

  • Outdoor visiting and ‘screened’ visits
  • Visits in exceptional circumstances, including end of life, should always be enabled

In all cases it is essential that visiting happens within a wider care home environment of robust Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures, including ensuring that visitors follow (and are supported to follow) good practice with social distancing, hand hygiene and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use.

In the event of an outbreak in a care home, the home should immediately stop visiting (except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life) to protect vulnerable residents, staff and visitors.

The risk assessment should also consider factors relating to the layout, facilities and other issues around the care home – to help determine:

  • Where visiting will happen – outdoors or in COVID-secure indoor rooms, the rooms in which visiting will happen, where and how visitors might be received on arrival at the home to avoid mingling with other visitors, staff or residents etc.
  • The precautions that will be taken to prevent infection during visits (including PPE use and hand washing)

Some providers have used temporary outdoor structures – sometimes referred to as ‘visiting pods’ – which are enclosed to some degree but are still outside the main building of the home. These can be used. Where this is not possible, a dedicated room such as a conservatory (i.e. wherever possible, a room that can be entered directly from outside) can be used. In both of these cases, providers must ensure that:

  • The visiting space is used by only one resident and visiting party at a time, and is subject to regular enhanced cleaning between each visit.
  • The visitor enters the space from outside wherever possible
  • Where there is a single access point to the space, the resident and visitor enter the space at different times to ensure that safe distancing and seating arrangements can be maintained effectively.
  • There is a substantial screen between the resident and visitor, designed to reduce the risk of viral transmission.
  • There is good ventilation for spaces used (for example, including keeping doors and windows open where safe to do so and using ventilation systems at high rates but only where these circulate fresh air).
  • Consider the use of speakers, or assisted hearing devices (both personal and environmental) where these will aid communication. This will also avoid the need to raise voices and therefore transmission risk.

In all cases:

  • Visitor numbers should be limited to a single constant visitor wherever possible, with an absolute maximum of 2 constant visitors per resident. This, for example, means the same family member visiting each time to limit the number of different individuals coming into contact. This is in order to limit the overall number of visitors to the care home and/or to the individual, and the consequent risk of disease transmission from multiple different routes.
  • Appropriate PPE must be used throughout the visit, and around the care home building and grounds.
  • Social distancing (between visitors and residents, staff, and visitors from other households) must be maintained at all times – during the visit, and around the care home building and grounds.
  • High quality IPC practice must be maintained throughout the visit and through the wider care home environment (See section below on infection control precautions in the wider care home environment).
  • Visiting spaces must be used by only one resident and visiting party at a time, and between visits there must be appropriate cleaning and an appropriate time interval.

The following considerations and precautions should be taken into account when visitors are visiting residents of the home:

  • Visitors must follow any guidance, procedures or protocols put in place by the care provider to ensure compliance with infection prevention control. Therefore, copies of the guidance, procedures and protocols should at least be available to be read by visitors on arrival
  • Visitors should be supported to ensure that the appropriate PPE is always worn and used correctly, and they follow good hand hygiene. They should follow the guidance on how to work safely in domiciliary care in England to identify the PPE required for their visiting situation. Care homes are being provided with PPE to meet these requirements
  • In exceptional circumstances, a very small number of residents may (by nature of their care needs) have great difficulty in accepting staff or visitors wearing masks or face coverings. The severity, intensity and/or frequency of the behaviours of concern may place them, visitors or the supporting staff at risk of harm. A comprehensive risk assessment for each of these people identifying the specific risks for them and others should be undertaken for the person’s care, and this same risk assessment should be applied for people visiting the person. If visors or clear face coverings are available, they can be considered as part of the risk assessment. However, visors will not usually deliver the same protection from aerosol transmission as a close fitting mask. Under no circumstances should this risk assessment be applied to a whole care setting
  • Visitors should be reminded and provided facilities to wash their hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the home, and to catch coughs and sneezes in tissues and clean their hands after disposal of the tissues
  • Visitors should have no contact with other residents and minimal contact with care home staff (less than 15 minutes/2 metres). Where needed, conversations with staff can be arranged over the phone following an in-person visit

All visitors should be screened for symptoms of acute respiratory infection before entering. No one who is currently experiencing, or first experienced, coronavirus symptoms in the last 10 days, should be allowed to enter the premises, nor anyone who is a household contact of a case or who has been advised to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, or who is in a relevant quarantine period following return from travel.

Any potential visitor who tests positive should immediately leave the premises and self-isolate. They should be offered a confirmatory PCR test by the care home and their household contacts may also be required to self-isolate in line with current guidance. Screening questions that care homes may wish to ask visitors on arrival are:

  • Have you been feeling unwell recently?
  • Have you had recent onset of a new continuous cough?
  • Do you have a high temperature? A care home may consider providing a temperature check for all visitors to provide confidence to visitors and to staff.
  • Have you noticed a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell?
  • Have you had recent contact (in the last 14 days) with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or someone with confirmed COVID-19. If yes, should you be self-isolating as a family member or as a contact advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace?
  • Have you returned from an overseas visit recently and are you still in the quarantine period?

Staff should discuss with visitors any items they wish to bring with them on their visit, such as a gift. It will need to be something that can be easily cleaned by the care home to prevent cross contamination. For example, a box of chocolates that could be sanitised with wipes.

Care homes should support NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record (including address and phone number) of current and previous residents, staff and visitors (including the person/people they interact with – for example if a person visits their loved one who is also visited by a chaplain in the course of the visit), as well as keeping track of visitor numbers and staff.

This guidance equally applies in all other settings including Supported Living, whilst we remain in the lockdown any contacts with family members outside the homes must again be based on a detailed assessment of risk and in line with the Government’s guidance on the provision of Support Bubbles: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

This virus has not yet been beaten, a single course of vaccinations does not mean that we can relax and risk further outbreaks, it remains our priority to work with providers to keep our vulnerable population safe and we continue to be very supportive of the measures that each provider has in place to control risk within each residential setting.

National Guidance:

The Gold Standards Framework Centre CIC (GSF Centre CIC) which provides training for generalist frontline staff in health and social care, to enable the provision of ‘gold standard’ care for all people nearing the end of life, has published The Gold Signposting and guidance on the Coronavirus Epidemic.

Local Guidance
Join the Somerset Care Homes Palliative Care ECHO network

variety of participants can share best practice and learning – all staff from signed up teams are welcome.

Signed up professionals and care homes will have access to:

  • Ten facilitated ECHO sessions per year
  • Share knowledge and network with other professionals and care homes in Somerset
  • Access to a variety of specialists in palliative care
  • Certificate of attendance (following completion of feedback)
  • Opportunity to achieve a Champion Care Home award from St Margaret’s Hospice Care where minimum standards are met

The sessions are FREE, held remotely and coordinated by the Hub (St Margaret’s Hospice Care). All you need is a device that you can access the internet and emails on, with a camera, microphone and speaker. No special software is needed – a link will be sent in an email that allows you to join the session directly.  

The network will work slightly different for care homes and health and social care professionals and we have therefore added further information provided by St Margaret’s Hospice below: 

In response to COVID-19, the Home Office and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) have put temporary arrangements in place to provide DBS checks and fast-track emergency checks of the adults’ and children’s barred lists free-of-charge to healthcare and social care workers being recruited in connection with the care and treatment of COVID 19 in England and Wales.

These arrangements will provide employers with the option to appoint new recruits into regulated activity with adults and/or children, as long as the individuals are not barred, and appropriate measures are put in place to manage the individual until the full DBS check is received.

Guidance has been developed for organisations who need to do these checks, setting out how who can have them and how to complete the applications so these can be easily identified and the right level of information provided as quickly as possible.

These checks will be free of charge to reduce the burden on services at this time of need.

The guidance can be found here (updated 22/10/2020) and all other DBS guidance relating to COVID-19 can be found here (updated 16/07/2020) .

Most EU citizens living in the UK (as well as those from the EEA and Switzerland) need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to gain Settled Status so they can continue to live and work in the UK after 30 June 2021.  This includes both employees and care home residents.  The pandemic is having an impact on application times to the EU Settlement Scheme, so it’s vital that people apply as soon as possible.

You can apply for settled status at https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

You should consider the impact on your organisation or business if staff do not have Settled Status, as they will not be able to work after June 2021. You can also play an important role by sign posting your service users to the scheme, as some people in our community may not be aware of the need to apply or may need help.

Local charity Diversity Voice, in partnership with Somerset County Council, are working with the Home Office to provide help from regulated advisors for those who need it, including vulnerable people and employers.  They can provide posters, hand-outs for service users and 1:1 help for applicants in any language.  There’s no charge for this service.

Contact euss@diversityvoice.org.uk or 0300 075 0105.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

National Guidance

PPE Resources:
Local Guidance and Resources:

National Guidance 

The NHS has set up a supply distribution helpline which can answer PPE calls and emails 24/7:

Phone: 0800 915 9964
Email supplydisruptionservice@nhsbsa.nhs.uk

PPE Portal:

  • The DHSC has launched a guidance page on the PPE Portal, to help provide information to those invited to register and order emergency PPE through the site.
  • Please find the page at this address:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ppe-portal-how-to-order-emergency-personal-protective-equipment (Department of Health and Social Care, updated 09/02/2021)
  • The customer service team can be contacted on on 0800 876 6802 if you have any questions about using the PPE portal
  • The page details who is eligible to register with the portal, how the order process works and what customers should expect from the portal.
  • Please ensure that all eligible providers regularly check their email accounts registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) / Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in order to ensure that the email invitation is received and actioned.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Strategy:

On 28/09/2020 the Department of Health and Social Care published a strategy for preparing for a second wave of COVID-19 covering supply and logistics for distribution of PPE (updated 29/09/2020).

Local process

While we appreciate that many providers are now procuring PPE via the PPE Portal, the Local Authority is still available to support providers with any PPE shortfalls, however this will be on a chargeable basis.  Please contact ASCCOVID19@somerset.gov.uk should you wish to purchase PPE through the Local Authority. 

Resuscitation during the Coronavirus public health crisis presents those undertaking it with additional risks. Advanced life support procedures are considered aerosol generating, and should therefore only be undertaken by those wearing FFP3 masks and the highest level of PPE.

The Resuscitation Council UK are advocating compression only CPR at this time due to the inherent risks, further guidance can be found at:  https://www.resus.org.uk/media/statements/resuscitation-council-uk-statements-on-covid-19-coronavirus-cpr-and-resuscitation/covid-community/ (updated 13/05/2020)

  • The appropriate use of PPE will protect uniforms from contamination in most circumstances
  • Change at work – it is best practice to change in to and out of uniforms, or dedicated work clothing, at the workplace
  • Uniforms should be brought home in a disposable plastic bag and laundered separately

Public Health England South West are holding weekly webinars at 3pm each Friday to answer questions about infection prevention and control.  If you have yet to have an cases these webinars are provided to help you prepare and we would strongly urge you to participate.

Please use this link to join using Microsoft Teams or join by phone: 020 8142 8939 then phone conference ID: 447 183 299#

Please don’t throw empty hand gel/sanitiser bottles away, particularly small ones. You need to use these to decant gel from large bottles if you receive these as part of your PPE requirement. There is an increasing shortage of small bottles so we must reuse them.

When doing this, ensure that:

  • The bottle is cleaned thoroughly before refilling
  • You use a funnel to refill the bottle

Don’t forget:  Hand gel/sanitiser is only used where you cannot wash your hands with soap and water. This remains your best defence against COVID-19. Wash them for 20 seconds, and wash them frequently.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.

Further information

The Government launched a new NHS Test and Trace service on 28/05/2020.  The service is expected to evolve over the coming weeks and further information will be added as it becomes available.

General information

A summary has been produced of Coronavirus (COVID-19) tests available for adult social care in England (HM Government, 29/12/2020) that details the different requirements for each type of service.  Please note that the references to ‘Tier 4’ within it currently apply while we remain in a national lockdown and that there is a separate summary for Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in a suspected or confirmed outbreak in care homes (HM Government and NHS Test and Trace, 16/02/2021).

Please see below for more specific information on testing within different service types.

National Information on getting tested for COVID-19

Local Information on getting tested

Labelling of tests for staff

We have received feedback that sometimes it can be unclear which setting a test relates to where the information completed only shows the care provider name rather than care setting.  Please could you there ensure that you complete as much detail as possible (setting name(s) and postcodes) as well as the name of care provider associated with it.  This will enable the location that the staff member is working at to be more quickly identified.

Care Homes (updated 26/02/2021)

Please click to expand to view information specific to care homes

Daily testing in the event of a positive test in a care home

Please be aware that current guidance states that, in the event of a positive test in a care home, all staff must be tested daily for at least 7 days

Guidance

The government has published guidance for all care homes without outbreaks that includes information about testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) (HM Government, updated 25/02/2021), Your step-by-step guide for COVID-19 self-testing: Lateral Flow Test Kits (HM Government, updated 03/02/2021).  

If your scheduled courier (booked at https://test-kit-collection.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/ – see below) does not arrive to collect your test kits please call the contact centre on 119. They will be able to book urgent replacement couriers for you, and will be able to escalate any other concerns that you may have.

Please note that all couriers should still be booked at https://test-kit-collection.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/, and 119 should only be called if one does not arrive as scheduled between 4pm and 10pm.

The Department for Health and Social Care has also published guidance and spreadsheet to record the details of up to 50 people who you’ve tested for coronavirus on that day (Department for Health and Social Care, updated 25/02/2021)

The only exemption to this is if a care homes identifies their first symptomatic resident and is concerned that they may have an outbreak.  In these circumstances they should contact their local Public Health England Health Protection Team 0300 303 8162 (including out of hours) they will provide public health advice, and arrange urgent testing of all symptomatic residents.  Information on the local process can be found below under “Coronavirus testing for residents and reporting suspected COVID-19 cases”.

Any care home workers with symptoms should be self-isolating and can access testing via the self-referral portal or be referred by their employer in the usual way.  As with residents, information on the local process can be found below under “Coronavirus Testing for staff”

Testing frequency and retesting after a positive result

In care homes, all staff should be tested every seven days and all residents every 28 days. When test kits are sent these are enough for four weeks and you can re-order more kits 21 days after your last order was dispatched.

If staff are on annual leave, they are not required to join the weekly testing until they return to work.

If staff develop symptoms, they should be tested at a test centre or by ordering a kit to be sent direct to their home. They can do this at:

https://www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test-essential-workers 

Testing within 90 days of a positive PCR test

Following a substantial clinical review of the latest evidence and testing data, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has changed the advice for retesting within 90 days of a positive. From now on, if someone tests positive with a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, they should not be tested using PCR or Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) for 90 days, unless they develop new symptoms during this time, in which case they should be retested immediately using PCR. This 90 day period is from the initial onset of symptoms or, if asymptomatic when tested, their positive test result.

The previous policy to continue LFD testing following a positive PCR result was because although very unlikely, it is possible to be re-infected within 90 days. However based on the latest testing data and clinical advice, the policy has now changed.

The clinical view is that during this 90 day window from a positive test, given the low rate of reinfection during this window, it is significantly more likely that a positive LFD test would be a false result, rather than someone being re-infected, causing people to isolate unnecessarily. Therefore we are now stopping the regular testing using LFD during this 90 day period. The individual should return to the regular LFD and PCR regime once 90 days has passed.

This means that the policy for retesting within 90 days for Adult Social Care is now the same as the policy for NHS staff. The policy also applies to professionals visiting a care home who have received a positive PCR result in the last 90 days.

A set of Frequently Asked questions (FAQs) has be produced about this change.

Testing in a confirmed or suspected outbreak.

In line with Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and Public Health England advice, the Department of Health and Social Care has introducing some changes to the testing procedures in the event of an outbreak.

In the event of a confirmed / suspected outbreak, you should immediately contact the local Health Protection Team (HPT) for advice using swhpt@phe.gov.uk.

An outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed or clinically suspected cases within 14 days – detected by either Lateral Flow Device (LFD) or Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing.  However, one positive test result may be the first sign of an outbreak, so you should also contact your health protection team for advice in this instance.

Please read the full guidance for all care homes without outbreaks that includes information about testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) (HM Government, updated 25/02/2021) detailing the outbreak testing process and how you can best prepare your care home in the event of an outbreak. This guidance should be followed unless advised otherwise by the HPT. The outbreak testing section starts from page 39.

What is changing?
  • Rapid response LFD testing for staff is being extended (from 22 February). This should no longer automatically stop after 7 days. Instead care homes should continue with rapid response testing until 5 days have elapsed since the date of the last positive LFD
    (confirmed with PCR). Staff should only be tested on the days they are due to attend work.
  • LFD testing for residents is being introduced (from 22 February). This should be undertaken at the same time as the PCR testing in an outbreak – on day 1 and on an additional day between days 4 and 7. The usual principles of consent and best interest decisions apply to inform your decision whether this is appropriate for each resident.
  • With immediate effect, PCR outbreak testing is moving from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. The policy for when to carry out the outbreak PCR remains the same. All staff and residents should be tested on day one and on an additional day between days 4 and 7.

These changes are based on SAGE advice for how to use testing in a care home outbreak to reduce transmission and save lives. Rapid response daily LFD testing following a positive result has already helped care homes to get on top of outbreaks since it was introduced in December.

A one page summary has also been produced for Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in a suspected or confirmed outbreak in care homes (HM Government and NHS Test and Trace, 16/02/2021)

Testing is only one part of the outbreak response. The local HPT will provide advice on how to manage the outbreak including the necessary Infection Prevention and Control measures such as cohorting, proper use of PPE, good hand hygiene and distancing.

Returning PCR tests in an outbreak

As you are already engaged in the National Coronavirus Testing Programme for staff / resident testing – you may already have couriers booked for the days that outbreak testing is taking place. If this is the case, you should return PCR tests through this regular channel – no additional return courier booking will be needed. Should this not be the case, you can arrange a courier for the next day on https://test-kit-collection.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/ and if required, you are able to call 119 to book a same day courier.

Please remember that no personally identifiable information should be included with the PCR test kit. All we need to process the test is the barcode on the test kit.

As a reminder, used LFD kits do not have to be sent to labs and should instead be disposed of in health care waste bins.

Ordering Test Kits

The Department of Health and Social Care has said that it will continue to send care homes more Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kits than necessary to carry out the recommended weekly testing for both staff and residents. This means you should have spare LFD and PCR kits that you can use in case of an outbreak.  It will also will continue to monitor kit levels as the current lockdown restrictions evolve to ensure you continue to have enough test kits to meet your testing needs.

If you are in an outbreak and do not have enough stock to last until your next routine order, you can place an additional order via 119. You should receive these kits within 48 hours.

If you are not in outbreak you can place an order via the ordering portal, gov.uk/coronavirus, in line with your normal 21-day reordering cycle. After 21 days, automatic emails will remind you that your home is eligible to place an order.  You should make sure to re-order before running low – you can reorder every 3 weeks.  Please note that you will need your organisations Unique Organisation Number (UON) in order to place an order.

Labelling of tests for staff

We have received feedback that sometimes it can be unclear which setting a test relates to where the information completed only shows the care provider name rather than care setting.  Please could you there ensure that you complete as much detail as possible (setting name(s) and postcodes) as well as the name of care provider associated with it.  This will enable the location that the staff member is working at to be more quickly identified.

Safety notice: Checking the barcodes on your test kits

The Department of Health and social Care have informed us that  they have received a small number of reports that the four barcodes in some test kits have not matched.

It is critical that all barcodes in each test kit match, so that registration data and results are correctly associated with the right person.

When using your test kits, please check that all four barcodes (found on the vial, the bag, the box and the loose barcode for your records) are identical.

If they do not match, please do not use the test kit and contact the Test and Trace contact centre on 119 to inform them of the issue and request replacement kits.

Registering LFD test results

All lateral flow device tests must be registered (whether positive, indeterminate/void, or negative) as a legal requirement at:  https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result

Understanding results, and the prevalence rate is crucial for public health teams to understand the prevalence of coronavirus in care homes across the country and be able to support the care sector appropriately. It is therefore very important that care homes have made the necessary arrangements with staff self-testing at home to ensure that all results from lateral flow device tests are registered online, and the DHSC has informed us that it will be monitoring compliance.

Registration should be done within 24hrs to ensure that results can assist NHS Test and Trace in understanding transmission and prevalence.

User account function for LFD registration

The Department of Health and Social Care has been working to improve the LFD registration process to make it simpler and less time consuming.  It has been looking to remove the need to navigate through a number of screens capturing personal details every time you complete the registration of your LFD result.

As a result of this the ability to create a user account when self-registering your LFD is now live, please follow the guidance on page 16 of the LFD Testing Guidance (UK Government, updated 03/02/2021) to set your account up.

Please note you will need to enter all your personal details when creating the account. You will be required to input an email address and phone number, as part of the account creation and verification process, so please make sure you have access to an email address and phone.

Once you have created your account, the amount of time taken to register your LFD result will decrease significantly, as your personal details will be saved.   If you do not want to create an account, the single registration process will still available.

Returning confirmatory PCRs

If an individual tests positive with an LFD, they will need to take a confirmatory PCR test. Your home has been provided with additional PCR tests for this purpose, which come with Royal Mail return labels. You can affix these to the confirmatory PCR test kit and post them via your nearest priority post box. You can find your nearest priority post box at:

https://www.royalmail.com/priority-postboxes

Please make sure the label is affixed to the test kit box before posting.

If you cannot post the confirmatory PCR test kit for whatever reason, the care home manager can ring 119 to book a same day courier to collect the test kit from the care home – however, we would encourage you to post the test kit if at all possible to avoid needing a courier for only one test kit. The turnaround time for results for test kits returned via Royal Mail are in line with those returned via courier.

Your regular PCR staff and resident test kits still need to be returned via courier. We do not provide Royal Mail return labels for regular PCR tests and a test kit cannot be posted without a Royal Mail return label.

If you already have a courier booked for your regular PCR testing, and you complete a confirmatory PCR kit at the home on the same day, you can include the confirmatory PCR kit along with the regular PCR kits.

Changes to the online registration portal which take effect from 25th February

Test kits with barcodes prefixed with SAT can only be registered up until 24th February 2021. After this date these test kits cannot be used and registered.

Organisations are asked to check their stock of test kits as barcodes with the prefix SAT will not be accepted after 24th February 2021

Organisations that only have test kits with the prefix SAT should please order more test kits via the link below:

https://request-testing.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/

Wording of results

The testing programme no longer uses wording for ‘void’ or ‘inconclusive’ results. This has been replaced with the wording below:

We could not read your coronavirus test sample. This means it’s not possible to say if you had the virus when the test was done.
We’re sorry, but you’ll need to get another test as soon as possible.
Keep self-isolating (and stay off work if relevant) if:

  • You have or develop symptoms of coronavirus
  • Someone you live with has symptoms or tests positive
    You’ve been traced as a contact of someone who tested positive

Care home testing webinars

The Department of Health and Social Care has set up regular care home testing webinars. The webinars will last 90mins and give detailed information about all aspects of care home testing, including: registering to receive tests, preparing for testing, test kit delivery, the testing process itself, testing certain care groups, registering test kits, booking your collection, and results and what they mean for you home

The session will include a Q&A with representatives from the national care home testing team, who will be able to answer your questions and address any concerns in the session.

Use this link to sign up to attend the webinars.  If you are not able to attend the webinars please sign up and a recording of the session will be made available to you after the session

The government has published a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that have been asked at webinars.

Lateral Flow Device (LFDs) approval for self-test granted

Approval has now been received care home staff in England to conduct self-test LFDs. This means your staff are now able to take and register their twice weekly LFD tests at home, before they arrive at the care home to start work.  This only applies to care home staff and not to other settings in adult social care at this time.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said that it is are working with care homes to ensure they have enough LFD kits to enable the provision of a box of 25 LFD tests to care home staff. These are the same LFD kits that care homes have been using previously.

If you have enough LFD tests to be able to provide each care home staff member with a box of 25 LFD tests, please feel free to start this process. If you do not have enough kits, please do not ring 119, as the DHSC will launch the online replenishment portal w/c 1st February, which will allow you to place an order for LFDs.

The online replenishment portal is very similar to the current process you follow for ordering the standard Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits that are used for regular staff and resident testing. The only difference being that from this portal you will select LFD test kits, rather than your standard PCR test kit order. You should continue to order regular PCR kits for staff and residents as per usual.

Once you have placed an order, your delivery will provide you with enough LFD test kits for you to provide each staff member with one box of 25 test kits, which should last them 1 month of testing. Within this order you will also be provided with a confirmatory PCR, for each staff member, which will be part of the replenishment package, and is used should an individual receives a positive LFD.

Please only place an order if you require a replenishment of LFD test kits. There is no obligation to place an order if you have enough LFD test kits already in your home.

As a reminder, these LFD test kits are a new technology which provide a rapid Covid-19 test result in 30 minutes and do not require a lab to process. These should be used in addition to regular PCR testing.

Self-test Guidance

Please share the published self-test guidance (HM Government, updated 03/02/2021) to all your staff members who will be testing at home. It is the care home manager’s responsibility to maintain records of the kits that are distributed, including the LOT number, which can be located on the box of 25 LFD tests.

Can I share test kits with another provider, friends or family

  • Test kits for a setting must not be shared with anyone outside of the setting
  • Sharing test kits may lead to issues with test kit registration, courier collection and also contact tracing
  • If you have any spare test kits, they should be stored between 5 and 22 degrees Celsius until their expiry date, which is displayed on the swabs
  • Anyone that is symptomatic can get a test here: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

Training

All care home staff members that are using LFD tests must have completed the training on the NHS Test and Trace online training portal. The training videos last about 15 minutes followed by a competency assessment.

Link: https://go.tessello.co.uk/TestDeviceTraining/

Token: 3wkcVi4UTX

Any care home staff member who has not yet completed the training can use the above link to create an account, access the training videos, and complete the competency assessment. Once the training is complete, screengrabs of the competency assessment can be sent to the care home manager to be stored for internal records.

Please note, the registration process on the training portal is different to the one described above. You must follow the registration process highlighted in the section above (please see pages 16 to 19 in the self-test guidance for further detail on the registration process).

It is critical that your care home staff member does not begin LFD testing until they have completed the assessment.

Domiciliary Care Services (updated 09/02/2021)

Please click to expand to view information specific to domiciliary care services

On 06/01/2021 the Department of Health and Social Care updated guidance on how homecare agencies in England can order regular tests for their homecare (domiciliary care) staff.

Ordering Test Kits

Test kits should be ordered via the online portal: gov.uk/coronavirus.  There is also a specialist team trained to support care home queries at the 119 coronavirus testing contact centre.  Lines are open from 7am – 11pm daily.  Please note that you will need your organisations Unique Organisation Number (UON) in order to place an order.

Please be aware that you will not be able to place another order until 21 days have passed from when your order was processed. The online replenishment portal will highlight the date that you can place your next order.

Extra Care Housing and Supported Living Services (updated 26/02/2021)

Please click to expand to view information specific to Extra Care Housing and Supported Living Services

The government has published guidance on regular retesting for extra care and supported living settings that meet the eligibility criteria (Department of Health and Social Care, 25/02/2021).

From the 09/12/2020 eligible Extra Care and Supported Living settings will be able to place orders to regularly test their residents and staff.

The Department of Health and Care (DHSC) has rolled out regular testing for staff and residents to extra care and supported living settings that meet the following criteria:​

  • a closed community with substantial facilities shared between multiple people, and ​
  • where most residents receive the kind of personal care that is CQC regulated (rather than help with cooking, cleaning and shopping)

Eligible Extra Care and Supported Living settings in England should conduct regular testing over a period of 4 weeks.

Staff should be tested on a weekly basis and residents should be tested every 28 days. Orders should be placed every 28 days.

Ordering Test Kits

Test kits should be ordered via the online portal: gov.uk/coronavirus.  There is also a specialist team trained to support care home queries at the 119 coronavirus testing contact centre.  Lines are open from 7am – 11pm daily.  Please note that you will need your organisations Unique Organisation Number (UON) in order to place an order.

Please be aware that you will not be able to place another order until 21 days have passed from when your order was processed. The online replenishment portal will highlight the date that you can place your next order.

Webinars

The DHSC would like to invite providers to regular Extra Care and Supported Living testing webinars and are strongly encouraging providers and those involved in the testing process join the webinar.

The webinars will last 1 hour and give detailed information about all aspects of testing, including:

  • Ordering tests
  • Preparing for testing
  • Test kit delivery
  • The testing process itself
  • Registering completed test kits
  • How to send test kits back to our labs
  • Results and what they mean for your organisation.

The content of the webinars will largely be the same for each session, however will include key updates on testing so is subject to change.

The session will include a Q&A with representatives from the testing team, who will be able to answer your questions and address any concerns in the session.

Use this link to sign up to attend an Extra Care and Supported Living testing webinars.

Can settings share test kits with another provider, friends or family

  • Test kits for a setting must not be shared with anyone outside of the setting
  • Sharing test kits may lead to issues with test kit registration, courier collection and also contact tracing
  • If you have any spare test kits, they should be stored between 5 and 22 degrees Celsius until their expiry date, which is displayed on the swabs
  • Anyone that is symptomatic can get a test here: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

How can settings store spare tests?

  • The DHSC will send test kits in batches of 40 to Extra Care and Supported Living settings, so we appreciate that you may have a few spare
  • Test kits must be stored at an ambient temperature of between 5 and 22 degrees Celsius
  • You can store spare kits for future use if you have received a result that states ‘we could not read your sample’, or if you are directed to use your kits in the case of an outbreak

Can settings test throughout the whole week?

  • Yes, eligible settings can conduct testing throughout the whole week
  • Testing can be spread out throughout the week, settings do not have to test everyone on one day
  • If you are using the courier return method for 9 or more test kits, you can test throughout the whole week, including on weekends. You can book a courier at https://test-kit-collection.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/   
  • If you are using the post-box return method for 8 test kits or less, you should not test on Sunday unless the post box has a Sunday collection time. Please join our webinars for more information

Day Services

Please click to expand to view information specific to day services

NHS Test and Trace is now offering weekly Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) home testing to adult day care centre workers in England in an effort to reduce infection risk in adult day care centres that are currently open for essential activities and to identify any positive cases in these settings as early as possible.

COVID-19 testing for adult day care centres guidance for day services on how to access testing has been published by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).  This guidance also includes information about an Adult Day Care Centres Testing Webinar – Please use this link to sign up to attend.

The link for day care centres to sign-up on the self-referral portal is https://request-onboarding.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/. Day Centres should sign-up using the referral UON 99915258 and select that they are an “adult day care centre”. Once reviewed and accepted they will then receive an email containing their own specific UON to order test kits.

The Department of Health and Social Care is currently developing further operational guidance specifically for testing in adult day care centres however, in the meantime please refer to the guidance for homecare workers (Department of Health and Social Care, updated 06/01/2021) which follows the same model and process.

Personal Assistants (17/02/2021)

Please click to expand to view information specific to domiciliary care services

Personal Assistants (PAs) in England are entitled to regular weekly PCR testing, from 17/02/2021.  This applies to all PAs in England who provide care and support to individuals in their own homes, where they come within 2m of the person they care for.

This is in addition to the existing support available to PAs to keep themselves and those they provide care and support to as safe as possible.

This includes guidance on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures and the availability of free PPE in government guidance on using direct payments during the coronavirus outbreak: full guidance for people receiving direct payments and personal assistants (Department of Heath and Social Care, updated 18/11/2020)

PA’s will be able to order a month’s supply of test PCR kits every 28 days, delivered to their home address, enabling them to conduct weekly coronavirus testing at home.

This is part of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) commitment to protect frontline workers, their loved ones and the people they care for and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Further guidance about how PAs can order tests, how to conduct testing and what the results mean is available in government guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for personal assistants(Department of Health and social Care, 16/02/2021)

To raise awareness the DHSC is holding a Personal Assistant webinar series which will take place at:

  • 4pm on Thursday 25th February
  • 4pm on Wednesday 3rd March

These are accessible via the following link:  https://event.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1433378&tp_key=cc65e8ae2d 

Please note that this testing programme is only for directly employed or self-employed carers who support people in their own homes.

If you are already part of a regular national testing programme through your employer or another organisation (e.g. through the homecare, or extra care and supported living testing programme), please continue.

The collection of completed tests should be booked using the following link: https://test-kit-collection.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/

The courier booking portal has been updated to improve the service. This update introduces three new changes:

  • There will be a new afternoon slot between 2:00pm – 4:00pm
  • At the moment, your organisation is designated a single slot.  However, now, you can book any collection window that best suits your organisation. The collection windows are:
    • Morning (9:00am – 1:00pm)
    • Afternoon (2:00pm – 4:00pm)
    • Evening (6:00pm – 9:00pm) (this slot for specialist Ministry of Justice locations only, please do not use it if it is displayed)
  • Please note that you can only book one slot a day.
  • There is now a regional cap for each collection window each day.  Once these are full the option will no longer be shown to your organisation. However, you can book a slot 28 days in advance, so please book a slot in advance to avoid being capped.

General guidance

  • This service enables you to arrange a courier to collect your COVID-19 testing kits, which will be taken to the lab for processing.
  • This is the only way that care homes can send test kits to the labs
  • This service is for the collection of used kits only, and not for the ordering of new testing kits.
  • You will be asked to provide your care home ID or equivalent unique identifier to access this service.
  • When arranging your courier you will be asked to predict the number of kits you expect to send back.  You will not be able to change it after submitting, but please do not worry if you end up testing a different number – it is only there to help plan volumes and does not need to be exact.
  • You can now make courier booking 28 days in advance, but it must still be booked by 7pm on the day before testing. Couriers are available seven days a week.
  • Please do not start testing until you have completed your courier booking.
  • If you require support with your courier booking, please contact the customer care team via COVIDCareHomeTesting@dhsc.gov.uk.

Please contact the Test and Trace contact centre on 119 the following morning if your courier has not arrived, and they will book you an urgent replacement courier. 119 opens at 7am every day.

Symptomatic Residents:

  • If you have a symptomatic residents (new continuous cough and/or a high temperature and/or a loss of, or change to, the sense of smell or taste) or receive a positive test result from whole home testing please ensure you inform Public Health England via swhpt@phe.gov.uk as COVID-19 is a notifiable disease.
  • Infection prevention and control advice will be given, and PPE provision checked.
  • Please remember to notify Somerset County Council Public Health via swhpt@phe.gov.uk again should the situation escalate, as shown in the flowchart below.

Swabbing:

Mental Capacity guidance:

Local Information

Please follow the flowchart below (updated 17/12/2020) if you have identified possible or confirmed case(s) of COVID-19:

A pdf version of the flowchart (updated 17/12/2020) with links is available here

Care Homes

These are sometimes called rapid tests as they produce results very quickly, within 30 minutes. You will receive these tests in addition to the  tests that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) already send you for weekly staff and monthly resident testing.

The LFD test kits will be used for scheduled visitor testing.  The DHSC will send further information as soon with details of when your LFD test kits will arrive, and guidance on how many you will get, how to use them, how you can order more, and what support available.

The DHSC is providing a webinar on LFD test kits.  Please sign-up to it to find out more: https://event.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1408929&tp_key=d2a77c17e3

Guidance

Every day, many care home residents across the country require essential care from healthcare professionals, who visit care homes to provide this care.

To minimise risks, all NHS community based front line staff have access to twice weekly lateral flow device testing through the NHS.

To help keep staff and residents in your care home safe, you may request evidence of this test from any NHS front line staff visiting your care home, and we have therefore asked that staff take a photo of the test result so it can be presented.  It is vital that appropriate face to face assessments continue and that you allow appropriate access to the home for professional staff.  We do appreciate the nervousness regarding increased visitation, but do need to ensure that appropriate assessment and intervention is provided.  If the staff member has proof of test results, it is not necessary to retest them on arrival.

If they are unable to provide evidence, or if they are not employed by the NHS you should request that they conduct a lateral flow test using your care home supply before admitting.

We have seen a small number of cases where care home staff have continued to work whilst symptomatic and this has in turn created an outbreak within the care home environment.  It is really important that all providers ensure that they have processes in place to ensure that staff do not work whilst they are experiencing any symptoms that may indicate Covid-19.  Some staff may have financial concerns, others may be acutely aware of the pressure on colleagues and believe continuing to work is in their best interests.  Clearly this needs to be addressed and we would ask all providers to please ensure that they provide staff with reassurance that Infection Control Grant monies are available to ensure staff continue to be paid whilst isolating, and that continuing to work when experiencing symptoms can lead to a significant outbreak and potentially far greater risk to residents and colleagues.

Any staff member who receives a positive test result (via a LFD or a PCR) or who displays symptoms should not be in work and must isolate at home, without exception – they cannot continue to work in any capacity, even with adults who have tested positive for COVID-19, or have been vaccinated.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or have received a positive test result

Stay at home and begin to self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms start. Arrange to have a test for COVID-19 if you have not already had one. The result of the test will determine how long you must stay at home and self-isolate.

Stay at home while you are waiting to be tested or are waiting for test results.

A positive test result means you must complete a 10-day isolation period.  If your test is negative, you can stop self-isolating as long as you are well.

If you do not have symptoms, but have tested positive for COVID-19, stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days from the day the test was taken.  If you develop symptoms after your test, restart your 10-day isolation period from the day the symptoms start.

Stay as far away from other members of your household as possible, especially if they are clinically extremely vulnerable. Avoid using shared spaces such as kitchens and other living areas while others are present and take your meals back to your room to eat.

This image describes a typical coronavirus incubation timeline

 

If you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19

Stay at home for 10 full days. The 10-day period starts from the day the first person in your house developed symptoms or, if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken.

If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 yourself you do not need a test. Only arrange a test if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.

If you develop symptoms and your test result is positive, follow the same advice for people with COVID-19 to stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started, regardless of where you are in your 10-day period.  This means that your total isolation period will be longer than 10 days.  If you have a negative test result during your 10 day isolation period, you must continue to self-isolate until it has been completed.

This image describes a household self-isolation timeline

We are unfortunately seeing an increased number of outbreaks in Somerset, and whilst this is very difficult for all involved it is vital that we look to identify any learning from these cases to support the wider system. 

We would like to outline some of the points that have been raised during discussions:

  • Care homes should consider what measures they should put in place to mitigate for for a situation where almost the entire staff team has to self-isolate.  For example, how would agency staff or those who normally work in different setting access records, know about each resident’s individual needs, Treatment Escalation Plans, the medication round etc?  Are your care plans in place and easy to follow, would clinicians easily be able to identify what the normal state of each resident is and whether therefore they have deteriorated?  Do you have baseline observations recorded so any drop in oxygen saturations could be identified? 
  • It’s often the simple things that get overlooked.  Cleaning schedules and rosters of cleaning staff, how are these organised, do your cleaning staff all work the same day shifts?  Does this mean cleaning is restricted to the 9-5 and could this be extended to ensure that cleaning is provided throughout the day and into the evening?  Are you using the right cleaning products, preferably chlorine based?  Do your staff share coffee cups?  Do you have a tin of biscuits that they all reach into; by sharing we increase contact between staff and this simple act could help spread the virus.
  • We need to please remind staff that they should not be working when they are unwell, Infection Control Grant monies are available to ensure those who are unwell and isolated are paid.  In addition, we need to remind staff that previous behaviours of coming to work when unwell because of an awareness of the impact of staff shortages and doing what you think is right, is actually a risk to residents and potential a route into the home for the virus.
  • Staff ideally should be cohorted such that they work in teams or bubbles.  For example one staff group per floor in larger homes, or the allocation of cleaning staff to specific areas.
  • Activities outside of the working environment must stop whilst we are in the pandemic, staff meeting and in particular car sharing should not be happening at this time.
  • Staff should come to work and change into uniform once in work, social distancing must be observed in any changing rooms and any towels must not be shared.
  • Staff must be socially distanced and during any breaks, if possible stagger breaks to reduce any transmission risk and ideally any staff areas should be well ventilated.

Information about the government’s coronavirus antibody testing programme (Department of Health and Social Care, updated 24/02/2021)

At-home antibody testing

The Department of Health and Social Care has launched an at-home antibody testing service which is now available to all paid staff in the adult social care sector in England. This at-home antibody testing service is supporting surveillance studies that are helping the government to understand COVID-19 and how it has spread in the adult social care sector.

Two sets of information have been produced, one for staff working in care homes, and one for staff working across the rest of the adult social care sector both of which contain the link to sign up for an at-home antibody test.

Please remember that antibody tests are different to COVID-19 swab tests. Swab tests tell someone if they currently have COVID-19, whereas antibody tests tell someone if they have previously had COVID-19 and have developed antibodies. They do not tell you if someone currently has the virus and swab retesting in care homes must therefore continue to be prioritised as normal.

Regardless of the result of an antibody test, individuals are not immune from infection, and must continue to comply with government guidelines, including wearing PPE and social distancing.

Providers must tell the Care Quality Commission about the death of a person using their service without delay if either of the following has happened:

  • the person died while a regulated activity was being provided;
  • their death may have been a result of the regulated activity or how it was being provided.

For further information and the notification form please visit: Death of a person using the service – notification form (updated 17/11/2020)

Verification of Death, Death Certification and Registration procedures

In addition, where the person who has died had a learning disability a notification must also be completed for the Learning Disability Mortality Review (LeDeR) Programme using the following link:  https://www.bris.ac.uk/sps/leder/notification-system/ 

The Government is asking employers to let the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) know if an employee or volunteer in the adult social care sector has died.

Please follow steps to take following the death of a person who worked in adult social care in England (updated by the Department of Health and Social Care on 07/07/2020) where deaths have already occurred, and if there are any further deaths.

Employers are encouraged to tell the family, friends or colleagues of the care worker who has died that they’re submitting this information.

There is no legal duty on employers to submit this information to DHSC, but the Government has said that submitting this information will help to make sure the appropriate steps can be taken following the death of a care worker, including support for employers.

Please see the useful advice and guidance below from the CQC to care homes who are wanting to increase their bed capacity as part of the COVID-19 response.

If providers are making an application to increase their capacity and help meet DHSC or CCG COVID-19 contingency plans, it’s important they tell the CQC in their covering email and clearly mark it ‘COVID- 19 application’.

Further information (updated 15/12/2020).

The Care Quality Commission announced that it would be moving to a Transitional monitoring approach in September 2020.  This focuses on safety, how effectively a service is led and how easily people can access the service. It includes:

  • a strengthened approach to monitoring, based on specific existing key lines of enquiry (KLOEs), so CQC can continually monitor risk in a service
  • using technology and local relationships to have better direct contact with people who are using services, their families and staff in services
  • targeting inspection activity where CQC have concerns

Prior to this CQC had written to all registered health and social care providers about how they are adapting their regulatory approach in response to the coronavirus outbreak.  The letters (dated 16 March 2020) expanded on an update they sent previously on 4 March 2020.  The changes they describe included:

  • stopping routine inspections from 16 March 2020;
  • a shift towards other remote methods to give assurance of safety and quality of care;
  • some inspection activity in a small number of cases (for example, where there are allegations of abuse);
  • giving extra support to registered managers in adult social care.

They clarified further that there are no changes to the requirements to make notifications / or the systems used to make them.

You should continue to notify the CQC of deaths and events stopping them from carrying on their service ‘safely and properly’ (Reg 18) – this will mean letting them know if your service operation is being negatively affected by COVID-19.

It does not mean that you’ll need to notify the CQC of every single COVID-19 related issue. Aside from making notifications in the usual way, you should stay in touch and contact them if there are specific concerns and issues that they need to be aware of.

For further information visit: https://www.cqc.org.uk/news/stories/routine-inspections-suspended-response-coronavirus-outbreak (updated 15/04/2020)

COVID-19 Insight: Issue 8: In this month’s report, we look at the evidence so far about how urgent and emergency care services have been affected by the pandemic during this winter, and discuss what action CQC is taking to provide constructive support.

COVID-19 Insight: Issue 7: In this month’s report, we share further data on the designated settings scheme for adult social care, and also look into more detail on data on deaths from COVID-19.We want these insight reports to help everyone involved in health and social care to work together to learn from the pandemic.

COVID-19 Insight: Issue 6:  In this month’s report, we share regional data on the designated settings that allow people with a COVID-positive test result to be discharged safely from hospital, and also the latest data on registered care home provision. We also look at how providers have collaborated to provide urgent and emergency care during the pandemic.

COVID-19 Insight: Issue 5:  In this month’s report, we build on the learning about good practice in infection prevention and control that we discussed in the last issue by focusing on care homes. We also present the key findings from a survey to understand the experience of inpatients who were discharged from hospital from April to May 2020, when the first wave of the pandemic was at its height.

COVID-19 Insight: Issue 4:  In this month’s report, we explore some of the learning about good practice in infection prevention and control, and share some of the good examples we have encountered in understanding how providers have worked together to tackle COVID-19.

COVID-19 Insight: Issue 3:  In this month’s report, we explore further the need for providers and other organisations to collaborate to tackle COVID-19. We look at what concerns have prompted us to carry out a number of inspections in recent months, and at the challenges that providers have faced in caring for people detained under the Mental Health Act or subject to a deprivation of liberty.

COVID-19 Insight: Issue 2:  In this report, we explain the information we have gathered on the pressures that services and local systems have faced and the efforts that have been made to tackle them.

COVID-19 Insight: Issue 1: This first insight document focuses on adult social care: reviewing data on outbreaks, deaths and availability of PPE, and in particular highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on staff wellbeing and the financial viability of adult social care services. 

We recognise many provider organisations in Somerset may suffer financial losses as a result of the challenges and consequences of COVID-19.

During COVID Somerset County Council’s Adult Social Care service committed to providing financial support to providers it contracted with, whether they were operational or not, and also provided additional funding to cover shortfalls created by services that had had to close due to COVID-19.

Many services have now resumed operation under the ‘new normal’, and this funding has now ended.  However, we recognise that some people may want or require a change in their support package or additional support, and this should be initiated by contacting Somerset Direct on 0300 123 2224 to request a care review.  We also recognise that some providers may still be experiencing difficulties as a result of the pandemic, and while our position is now that we are unable to offer the same level of support as we did previously (and as a result of this any additional invoices submitted for COVID support are no longer able to be paid), we will work with providers that are experiencing significant financial difficulties who contact ASCCOVID19@somerset.gov.uk to try to support them to find a solution as far as is practicable.

To support the Adult Social Care market with its response to the Covid-19 outbreak, a one-off payment totalling the equivalent of a 10% increase in fees for a 3-month period was made to all SCC contracted personal care provision across homecare and residential/nursing care in May.  This included all Learning Disability and Mental Health services in these categories.

We would like to reassure the businesses we work with that we will seek to find flexible solutions to help them continue to deliver services people who use servicers.  Government guidance can be found here (updated 12/01/2021) and the Government has also developed a tool for businesses to find coronavirus financial support.  It has also published new information about financial support for voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations to respond to coronavirus (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Office for Civil Society, updated 22/01/2021).

We are taking the following practical steps to help businesses in need of our assistance:

  1. If a business faces loss of income, we will discuss with them the available options where we continue to pay for the services they are contracted to provide. If we make payments for these services, we will work with these businesses, and where appropriate, look for support to redeploy their resources or personnel to support the Somerset community. We recognise that some businesses may not be able to operate as normal due to workforce or supply issues, and we will work to support them.
  2. We may need to ask businesses to provide additional resources and in some cases businesses may incur additional costs.  Again we will seek to agree a solution which takes account of need and cost in a balanced way.
  3. Payment will be made as promptly as possible.
    – We will look at all payment options on a case by case basis to support business sustainability.
    – We will work flexibly with providers occupying buildings which we own.
  4. We will be directing businesses we work with to the Government’s Covid-19 emergency financial support packages. We would ask you to be patient as these are developing on a daily basis. Any businesses in need of advice and support can visit the Local Growth Hub website at Heart of the South West Growth Hub. If any of our business suppliers are encountering difficulties due to COVID 19 we would encourage them to contact us to discuss how we can best assist you.  If any of our business suppliers are encountering difficulties due to COVID 19 we would encourage them to contact your Contract Manager to discuss how we can best assist you.

You may also find this SCC site helpful as a business in Somerset

Further Government guidance:

As part of the support to our homecare market in-relation to COVID-19, Somerset County Council agreed to support our homecare providers, by funding the level of activity, prior to COVID-19.  As from the 1st of August 2020, and with current homecare demand increasing, Somerset County Council will be returning to paying for deliverables, rather than previous levels of activities. 

The Care Act (2014) states client contributions should be only paid when receiving a service.

This means that if a service has been temporarily closed due to COVID-19 then no client contributions are payable by the person using the service for the duration of the temporary closure.  We appreciate that providers will continue to have costs, and we will work with providers that are experiencing significant financial difficulties who contact ASCCOVID19@somerset.gov.uk to try to support them to find a solution as far as is practicable.

Nationally there have been reports of business being targeted by scams.  With many people now working from home, increased stress, less opportunities to talk to colleagues and a different working environment are all things that criminals are using to their advantage to commit fraud. Employees are having to make decisions on their own without verification from their colleagues, making businesses more susceptible to scams and fraud.

Businesses Against Scams is a national initiative to help all businesses be aware of scams.  Sign-up here access to access a training session that takes around 10 minutes to complete, and which provides information on these frauds, what to look out for and how to prevent your company from falling victim to them.

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards have produced an article for you to share with you staff about vaccine related scams.

The Adult Social Care Winter Plan, updated on 14/12/2020, set out the key elements of national support and actions for local authorities, health organisations and providers for this coming winter.  A large part of this support will continue to be based on the information from providers to Capacity Tracker, and it is therefore essential that all providers register to use it and regularly complete it.  

All care homes are reminded of the Government requirement to register on the national Capacity Tracker and update it on a daily basis in order to make vacancy and other critical information available to NHS and social care colleagues in real time 

The latest data being provided from the Care Home Tracker appears to show that Somerset is an outlier in terms of Tracker completion.  We must stress that the new IPC Grant Funding is reliant on questions that are being added to the Tracker and as such it is absolutely vital that all providers complete the Tracker.  If you are having difficulties please ensure you advise us so we can support you in understanding how to enter your data.

The Tracker also appears to show that Somerset’s compliance with paying staff while isolating or shielding appears to be poor. Can we please reiterate again that providers should be doing so with full pay using the IPC Grant.

Please also note that when responding to questions this should always be on the basis of your position since the last time you competed it.  There have been instances of providers responding based on the situation that they were experiencing earlier in the year, which have resulted in concerns being raised about whether current guidance has been followed.

A collaborative staffing solution in Somerset has now been launched with Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Somerset County Council working in partnership to supply needs-led staffing throughout the county.  The aim is to provide a seamless staffing solution across all health and social care settings, starting with a focus on care settings affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.  

The temporary staffing team at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust will take the lead role in the coordination of this service for care providers.  

In the event that a care provider identifies concerns re: safe staffing levels, that cannot be resolved through implementation of its own existing business continuity plans and arrangements, care providers are now able to then contact the Temporary Staffing Team (by email or phone) and submit a staffing request.  Bank / Agency staff cover will be sought by the team, with the provider invoiced at existing Somerset Foundation Trust rates.  

To access the process, contact details and staffing request form, please visit: Somerset Care Sector Procedures COVID19 Temporary Staffing

In response to your request to be able to manage existing clients as effectively as possible during this Covid-19 period, we have simplified the process of making changes to existing packages of care.

You can now make any necessary changes to your existing clients’ care without needing to contact Adult Social Care for authorisation.

We ask only that you provide us with a weekly update of the changes that you have made for any clients in your care.

As the online form did not work effectively for some care provider colleagues, we have created the following spreadsheet to help you record any changes.

Please update this and submit to the Sourcing Care team on a weekly basis, returning every Friday before 12pm midday.

We really appreciate your co-operation with this, as this will help us keep our records up to date. Please invoice as per normal process; monthly is fine.  If you have any queries, contact the Sourcing Care team on sourcingcareservice@somerset.gov.uk

It is now more important than ever that organisations and agencies within the health and social care system are able to efficiently and securely communicate with each other.

That is why we are asking all care homes in Somerset to obtain and utilise the following approved, free-of-charge, digital tools as soon as possible.

NHSmail

What is NHSmail?

NHSmail offers a recognised secure email system which will allow patient identifiable data to be shared with healthcare services. You will be able to use your NHSmail accounts to communicate securely by email with GPs, pharmacies, the CCG and the Local Authority.

More than half of all care homes in England are now using NHSmail and case studies have shown a range of benefits, such as:

  • Being able to receive referrals and discharge summaries without delays
  • Significant time saved by not having to post/fax and chase information
  • The ability to meet the expectations of partners in relation to secure email
  • More efficient, better informed hospital discharges
  • Reduced risk of important information being lost or unavailable when required

There is also the opportunity for all NHSmail account holiders to have access to Microsoft Teams which offers a video conferencing facility to enable video consultations during periods of social distancing. A series of video conferences will be held over the coming weeks to support social care providers to make use of their new email account and video conferencing facilities.

If you would like to discuss NHSmail or the application process in more detail, please contact Russell Hilton, Somerset CCG Lead Information Governance Officer on 07771 988691.

If you already have NHSmail, you do not need to complete this form, but please be aware that the deadline for your DSPT submission has been pushed back from 31st March to 30th September 2020.

Fast-track Application Process for Care Homes and Domiciliary Care Agencies
It is now more important than ever that organisations and agencies within the health and social care system are able to efficiently and securely communicate with each other.

That is why we are asking all care homes in Somerset to obtain NHSmail, free-of-charge, by completing a quick and easy form.
You may be aware that care providers had previously been required to complete a Data Security & Protection Toolkit (DSPT) submission prior to obtaining NHSmail. This requirement has been temporarily lifted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the process for obtaining NHSmail is now very quick and simple.

To obtain NHSmail, just complete this form: Social Care Provider NHSmail Form and email it to russell.hilton1@nhs.net. 

Applications are processed by an automated system and will be rejected/delayed if incorrectly filled out. Therefore, please refer to the How to complete the NHSmail Form guidance notes, when filling out your application.

During the coronavirus outbreak we recognise it is even more important for us all to support each other and offer assistance wherever we can.
The care of the elderly departments across Somerset’s Acute Hospitals are preparing to answer clinical concerns from staff at residential and nursing homes.
This might be for issues such as: a person has fallen over and hit their head; do they need to be seen in the hospital? or a person is becoming more confused than usual and it’s not clear why.
Whilst they might not have all the answers or be able to offer hands-on support, they do have experience in these matters and may be able to provide reassurance or talk through a management plan to support you and GP colleagues.
Homes will be contacted soon via the CCG or Consultant Connect with further information and specifics about routes in to this service.

New e-learning resources have been published by on e-Learning for Healthcare (eL-fH) on Infection Protection and Control support available to the Care Sector. Whilst most are geared towards Care Homes, several have been adapted for use with Home care as well.  The resources include:

  • Social distancing , Hand hygiene , PPE
  • Taking care of residents and yourself 
  • Taking care of the environment
  • Planning ahead 

NHS Health Education England has developed a Covid-19 e-learning programme and the resources are freely available to colleagues working in the NHS, independent sector, and social care.  This includes resources for Health and Care Staff in Care Home Settings.

To access the e-learning programme follow the link, then select “Resources for Volunteers Supporting Health & Social Care”, then “Volunteer Learning Passport” – there are a range of topics, including Safeguarding Adults / Safeguarding Children.

Skills for Care has also identified training that remains a priority during this period to ensure there is a skilled and competent workforce, as well as outlining how to access training locally, and are also funding an essential training programme that includes IPC training that is being delivered virtually by 12 endorsed providers free of charge.  Skills for Care has also issued  guidance for employers, learning providers and in-house trainers on face-to-face training and assessment during COVID-19.

A new dedicated app for the adult social care workforce in England has been launched to support staff through the coronavirus pandemic.  Care workers will get access to guidance, learning resources, discounts and other support in one place.  Support will be offered on mental health and wellbeing through toolkits and other resources.  The app will be available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as being accessible online at https://workforce.adultsocialcare.uk

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) have also developed the following resources including webinars and e-Learning:

Please find information below from the Registered Care Provider Association (RCPA)

Dear colleague,

We are experiencing the most challenging period of time that the social care sector has ever faced. A combination of underinvestment, significant changes in commissioning and the onset of the pandemic have placed care providers under the most extreme pressure. The impact is being seen among front line staff and the people they care and support, among managers and in the financial health of organisations.  In these challenging times therefore, we would like to invite you to become a member; take part in our work and benefit from being part of something bigger.

As the Somerset-wide care provider association, the RCPA is proud to be taking a central role in supporting our members on a daily basis with the challenges they face, in being able to contribute to the joint planning and management of the crisis and in representing them in ongoing discussions with health and social care commissioners.

This past year we have been pleased to introduce the following services:

  • A comprehensive range of policies and procedures available free of charge to our members
  • Distributing the Workforce Development Fund
  • Holding fortnightly member calls to support you through the pandemic
  • An online member forum

Collective action, a louder voice and mutual support are the strengths of collaboration are the key benefits of being a member of the RCPA.  As a new member in 2021 we would like to offer you a 10% discount of the annual fee (details attached) and this can either be paid in one lump sum or via monthly direct debit.

Full details about our member benefits are attached along with an application form should you wish to join.

If you have any queries or would like to join, please contact Laura Stooke, our Business Manager at laura.stooke@rcpa.org.uk

We look forward to hearing from you,

Simon Blackburn, CEO, RCPA

The Registered Manager Network is organised by the Registered Care Provider Association (RCPA) in Somerset and any enquires about the network should be made to the RCPA.

The last meeting of the network took place virtually on 08/09/2020 and we have been asked to share the following information:

The next meeting will take place virtually on Tuesday 10th November 2020 from 14.00-15.30 and we have been asked to share the following information:

The Somerset Corona Virus Support Helpline – 0300 790 6275 – was launched on 6th April, opening between 8am – 6pm seven days a week including bank holidays. This single helpline across the districts and county will offer support with: Personal Care and support including food and prescriptions, Transport, Housing, Waste, Financial, as well as emotional well being for those who are worried or anxious. 

Skills for Care are able to create a local WhatsApp group for those of you who are keen and who feel this could be a good way of staying in touch and networking with others. The purpose of the group will be to provide a mechanism where you can all communicate with each other over issues affecting you as Registered Managers. You can share ideas, resources and support.

There are a number of ways that you can join this group:

During the COVID-19 outbreak we are, together, facing a loss of life, often under very difficult circumstances. Two important new resources are now available to help people through these distressing times.

  1. A new Bereavement and Coronavirus Guide has been produced to help with practical information such as how to register a death, through to planning a funeral and information on bereavement and grief. There is also a section on further advice and support.  If a person who has bereaved would like a paper copy of the guide, please telephone 0300 790 6275 and ask for the bereavement booklet to be sent to them and give their name and address
  2. Together with the booklet, Somerset has developed additional bereavement support services that have a quick and easy referral process.  If anyone would like to talk to someone about their loss then please contact the Marie Curie Helpline  0800 3047 412 Monday – Saturday 09.00-17.00. They are there to help and would welcome your call.  The service also has qualified bereavement support workers available for more in-depth support if needed. Professional referrals can be taken with the person’s permission.

Two posters have also been produced that can be downloaded below:

Parking

On-street parking patrols restarted in Somerset on 01/06/2020 following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The Government has published information for a health, care and volunteer workers parking pass and concessions pass for those on duty as an NHS staff member, health or social care worker, or NHS Volunteer Responder, and while there are ongoing discussion nationally about how this will work in the future parking enforcement staff will honour a permit if legible and displayed where easily visible.  However, it is important to emphasise that it should only be used where the purpose of parking is to support the response to COVID-19 rather than free day to day parking.  All drivers should also only park in permitted areas, such as parking bays, car parks and uncontrolled areas. It is also vitally important that drivers don’t block the path of emergency vehicles and others involved in delivering services to those in need. 

In these extraordinary times, we are all very aware of the importance of supporting both physical and mental health needs.

Find guidance, advice and tips on how to maintain mental wellbeing if you are anxious about the outbreak:

Mindline

Mindline Somerset is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if anyone wishes to talk to someone about their anxieties or worries.

Documents

For urgent requests for CHC help/support related to COVID-19 and CHC funded packages of care, please email: mailto:somccg.chc.contracts@nhs.net