Covid-19 a catalyst for change in care homes

 Sandra Blades 29 Jun 2020

During the Covid-19 crisis, care home staff have been at the forefront of the pandemic not only delivering care to their residents on a day to day basis but also supporting residents and their families at end of life.Those residents are the most vulnerable in our society, often with complex needs and progressive illnesses including dementia. The pandemic has brought the issues and support for this sector from primary and secondary care into sharp focus. 

The care home sector has been very badly hit by the Covid-19 crisis. Care Homes have been at the forefront of the pandemic as much as the NHS but without ongoing support and guidance of the larger multidisciplinary team. 410,000 people aged over65 live in care homes in UK with nursing and residential homes out numbering hospital beds 3 to 1. Care home staff have had to look after acutely ill residents and many of these residents have lost their lives. 

Recently, a lot has been said about care homes being the forgotten service, but hasn’t that been the case for some time?

Day to day life in care homes is challenging. There has been a massive increase in dependency of residents in care homes over the last 2 decades and the average length of stay in a care home is less than two years. Many of residents dying in care homes need end of life support from skilled practitioners and ongoing guidance from GPs and other specialist services. Care home staff need support and equipment to ensure residents have good evidence- based care with on-going support for their families.

There was the Vanguard programme to establish best practice in the care home sector and there have been many excellent programmes to improve care for residents and increase staff training (Gold Standards Framework for Care Homes / The Six Step to Success Programme / Saint Christopher’s Hospice in London Care Home training).

The sector needs innovation and transformational clinical leadership through nurse-led units to re-engage with the fundamentals of the art of nursing. The increasing need for beds in care homes over the next 10 years means we need to create a partnership with the NHS to reduce pressure on hospital services. We need a joined-up approach, share good practice, and promote the excellent work we as nurses and carers do on a day to day basis. Care home nursing is complex care – not for the faint hearted.

My nursing career has been in this sector and I have learnt so much from colleagues and the residents I have cared for. I have mentored student nurses who at first, were unsure about a placement in a nursing home. Long-term care in care homes needs to be recognised as the go to speciality. Care homes are where we truly promote person- centred care; from care plans on admission through a journey to advance care planning, ensuring residents are supported at end of life.

Many people needing care in a care home are our mums, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, neighbours and perhaps in the not too distant future, us too.

We now have a Chair of National Covid-19 Social Care Task force. So, let us use the opportunity to disseminate good practice and develop this sector. 

In conclusion I ask that you take a look at a truly visionary approach: The Vision for a Teaching / Research Based Care Home - The University of Edinburgh by Jo Hockley and her team, 


Silhouette of a woman

Sandra Blades

Older Peoples Forum committee member

Befriending Co-ordinator Age UK Teesside

A nurse with 12 years experience working in elderly / palliative care . (Care Home Setting)
I am interested in promoting best practice in care home nursing from admission until end of life.

Page last updated - 29/06/2020