With Covid-19 continuing to affect social care, how has the pandemic impacted - both professionally and personally - the staff that work within the sector?
The Covid-19 pandemic has and continues to have a significant impact on the social care sector, in particular people living and working in care homes for older people. The outbreak and spread of the virus has had a significant negative and devastating impact across care homes globally, this has included the unnecessary illness and death of many residents.
Internationally, the total number of Covid-19 deaths in care homes has been estimated to be between 19 – 72 percent of this population (Comas-Herrera et al. 2021).
The prevalence of mortality in care homes in the UK is currently unknown, however from the first recorded case in 2020 to the June 5th 2020 the Office of National Statistics reported 17,422 deaths of care home residents due to Covid-19 in England and Wales, which is 47 percent of all care home residents (Oliver, 2020).
The high mortality of care homes residents has been suggested to be due to the slow, late and inadequate response to the risk and reality of Covid-19 in care homes as compared to the NHS (Daly, 2020). This is in part due to the separate and complex systems that are social care and health care, but also the underfunding, under-resourcing, and austerity of the social care sector (Day, 2020).
This is compounded by the minutes of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which suggests care homes were only discussed twice regarding Covid-19 in the first five months of 2020 (Hanratty et al. 2020).
Issues arising in care homes in the UK has been explored by the University of Leeds, with the support of National Care Forum, which identified environments unsuitable for isolation practices, the need for staff to stay at the home and isolate, increased use of agency staff accessing more than one care home, and withdrawal of face to face support of NHS services, and a lack of personal protective equipment.
The University of Leeds report identified lessons learnt during the beginning of the pandemic to support care provision in care homes during the ongoing pandemic.
However, an element that is only just beginning to be explored, and is of equal importance is the impact on care home staff who have continued to provide care during the pandemic in care homes where their residents have become seriously ill and died.
The analysis of a WhatsApp group correspondence identified the uncertainties of both care home managers and staff, and these included how to: support residents, relatives and staff, maintain an effective workforce, interact with healthcare services, maintain effective care, enhance information sharing and learning, maintain infection prevention and control, and how to treat the individual with Covid-19 (Spilsbury et al. 2020).
However, a more robust and reliable approach is required to understand the impact of Covid-19 on care home staff.
The aim of this study is to begin to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on care home staff, including an emotional impact and a change in their practice and responsibilities.
Phase 1 – to gain an understanding of the lived experience of people providing care and support for people living in a care home, and to gain an understanding of perceived support.
Phase 2 – to understand the impact of changes to clinical practice, which will include a structured process of capturing and measuring the time of care providers completing new elements of practice.
Phase 3 – the development of an intervention to support care home staff both emotionally and with their daily practice.
How will the research be carried out?
Phase 1 - Data will be collected through one-to-one in-depth interviews, with a number of guide questions, which will support and enable the participants to discuss and explore their positive and negative experiences of providing care for residents in a care home during the pandemic.
The guide questions will commence with an opening question regarding the participants role within the care home, and to understand an average work day prior to the pandemic, and then to explore the impact of the pandemic, including changes to the way and how they provide care, and how this has impacted on them as an individual.
One-to-one interviews are required, to allow participants to discuss both their practice and emotions, without their peers present, which will support a deeper understanding of individual's lived experience.
The next phases will be developed upon the ideas elaborated in Phase 1.
Intended outcomes and impact
The results and methods applied in this study will be applicable, informative, and useful for supporting staff caring for people living in a care home setting.