‘Key lessons’ from Islington care homes that beat Covid

Decision was taken in early March to give residents extra protection from coronavirus

Friday, 31st July 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

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From left: Mildmays deputy manager Mena Tamru, with domiciliary care officers Ajoke Aileru, Mava McPherson and Denise Cummings

EARLY lockdown and a refusal to take patients from hospitals were “key lessons” to be learned, according to the manager of three care homes which survived the crisis with no deaths related to coronavirus.

Manager of the Mildmays, Jackie Millar, praised the attitude of both her employers, Notting Hill Genesis, and the Islington Clinical Commissioning Group who backed the decision to put restrictions in place at the three homes near Newington Green weeks before the nationwide lockdown.

NHS guidance on March 19 pressured hospitals to place elderly residents back in care homes if they didn’t need to be in hospital. In early April, it was confirmed negative coronavirus tests were not required before sending patients back into care facilities.

Figures show at least 20,000 care home residents in England and Wales have died from the virus since the start of the outbreak.

But in the Mildmays, which has 80 residents across three homes, a decision was taken in early March to restrict access to families, non-essential staff and hospital discharges – a decision that probably saved lives.

“Very early on we stopped external people coming in,” explained Ms Millar. “No visitors and no unnecessary staff. That happened as early as March 12. I totally believe that made the difference.

“There were a couple of cases who came back from hospital early on with Covid, but they all recovered here in the home. We came to the agreement very early on that we weren’t going to take patients back from the hospital. It may well have been a key decision. No residents died with coronavirus in our homes.”

The Mildmays staff were overwhelmed by the community response which included homemade face masks for staff to wear while commuting and cakes delivered by the Newington Green Action Group.

Ms Millar added: “More than anything our staff wanted to make sure we protected the people in our care.

“It was a sense of duty, and I’m very proud of them all.

“That was supported by the commissioning services who were really supportive of our actions.

“Our residents were very much on board with keeping safe and infection control, to the point that even today we have residents who will sit at the door and won’t let people in unless they have a mask on and clean their hands.

“This was something that no one has lived through before. There were sacrifices made on different levels.

“It’s so hard not to see your mum and dad, but when it is something that will save them, then people will of course do it.

“We’ve got the social bubble happening here now, and we opened back up in line with government advice. It was good day to see the residents reunited with their families.”

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