The RCN is alarmed that staff in care homes are being requested or in some cases coerced to comply with ‘locked in’ staffing arrangements to enhance the shielding of residents. These ‘locked in’ arrangements are over several days/weeks with staff having to share communal mixed gender sleeping arrangements very often in the resident areas of the care home.
The RCN strongly opposes any such arrangement for the following reasons
Underpinning this practice is a suggestion that COVID -19 can only be introduced to the home by a member of staff, and this implies a blame culture.
Constant 24-hour exposure to the care home environment increases staffs’ exposure to the virus and the potential to become infected.
The care home environment will not lend itself to the necessary rest and relaxation, which is essential for staff in meeting the challenges and demands of quality care provision and resulting fatigue will add additional risks for both staff and residents.
The physical and mental wellbeing of staff is also a concern as they are deprived of quality down time spent outside of the work environment with family.
Care homes employ a high proportion of staff from the BAME community, many from overseas on sponsored immigration visas. There are huge concerns that these staff will feel compelled to agree to these living arrangements. Given the emerging evidence that these staff are more susceptible to COVID-19, any form of locked in arrangement will place them at additional risk. Current advice is that a risk assessment should be carried out with staff from the BAME community.
The staffing crisis within care homes gives rise to staff being deprived of their breaks during and between shifts and expected to work hours that exceed The Working Time Regulations, further increasing risks to theirs and resident’s health and safety.
This approach has not been adopted in the acute care sector, where spread of infection is also a concern and the RCN fail to see why it should be considered appropriate within care homes.
The RCN is of the view that greater emphasis should be placed on adherence to infection control guidance; adequate provision of the appropriate PPE, (including training in donning and doffing), COVID-19 testing for all staff and residents; staffing provision that can meet the current demands of the service; suitable rest break facilities, and the availability of private changing, showering and staff laundry facilities.
The RCN cannot accept staff living in care homes.