BGS hosts five nation care home meeting

Sally Greenbrook joined the BGS in April 2019 as Policy Manager. She has more than a decade of experience in the UK health policy sector, having worked for the Department of Health and, most recently, as Policy Manager for Breast Cancer Now. She has for many years had an interest in the health and care of older people, having written her MA thesis on housing for older people. She tweets at @SallyGreenbrook

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on all of society, older people and, in particular, those living in care homes have borne the brunt of it. During the peak of the pandemic, there were more than 26,000 excess deaths in care homes in England and Wales1 with care home residents accounting for 40% of COVID-related details across the UK.2 As the feared second wave approaches, it is important that lessons are learned from the past and that healthcare professionals caring for older people are supported to ensure that the experience of the first wave is not repeated.

With this in mind, and to inform BGS’s work in this area, we convened a meeting of experts from the four nations of the UK and from the Republic of Ireland. Chaired by BGS Past President Dr Eileen Burns, this meeting gave participants an opportunity to share their experiences of managing COVID in care home settings and to compare what worked well and what didn’t. It explored how we can improve the experience of care home residents as we move into the next stage of the pandemic. There are areas of difference of course but most will recognise the common themes that came from all nations – access to PPE, testing of residents and staff, infection prevention and control, enabling visitors and ensuring that staff have the right skills and support to manage residents with COVID. Participants had a rich and nuanced discussion, acknowledging the complexity of caring for older people with COVID who may be approaching the end of their lives.

Dr Eileen Burns said about the event:

"The residents and staff of care homes bore a huge burden in the first wave of Covid-19 with almost half of deaths across Europe and North America occurring in care home residents. It was fabulous that BGS could bring together experts on healthcare in care homes from across our nations and share our expertise. It's crucial that we don't allow a narrative of "frail old people's deaths are a price worth paying to save the economy" to gain traction. A civilised society should be judged by the way we care for our most vulnerable."

Early in the pandemic, BGS published the first guidance on managing COVID-19 in a care home environment. The results of this meeting will be used to inform a further update of that guidance by the end of October. We will also be using this discussion to inform BGS’s wider work on care homes as we develop our plans in this area. We are also starting to convene a care home group to bring together our members who have a particular interest in the healthcare of older people living in care homes.

Do you want to be involved? Get in touch with our Scientific Officer Jo Gough to register your interest: j [dot] gough [at] bgs [dot] org [dot] uk.


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