In the early stages of the pandemic, care homes were hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. But since then, stringent COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures have been put in place to keep staff and residents safe. As the vaccine is rolled out to more people, we’ll soon see the return of regular visits. Let’s take a look at what the CQC will be looking for if one of those visits is an inspector coming to call.
1. Are new service users admitted safely?
This is particularly important if people are being discharged from hospitals where COVID-19 patients are being treated and so may therefore have had a higher risk of exposure to the virus. The CQC will be looking at what measures are in place to prevent infections when you admit new residents and whether you’ve followed the latest Government guidelines.
2. Are staff and service users shielding and complying with social distancing?
Caring for a clinically vulnerable person who is shielding is particularly challenging, so your inspector will want to know how you’ve gone the extra mile to keep everyone safe.
You’re also responsible for the mental wellbeing of staff and service users, and will need to demonstrate that you’ve taken action.
Obviously, it isn’t always possible to maintain social distancing when you’re caring for someone, so you’ll need to explain how you’ve overcome this challenge safely.
Finally, if the worst happens and there’s been an outbreak, how have you contained it while still caring for those infected?
3. How are you protecting visitors?
If you’re not allowing visitors, the inspector will want to know how you’re enforcing it and whether you’re using other methods such as video calls to help service users stay in touch with their loved ones.
If visiting is currently permitted, what procedures have you defined for visitors to follow and how have you communicated the rules to them? The CQC will also want proof that visitors have complied with your procedures.
4. Are staff using PPE properly?
Your team should know where and when to put PPE on and where to safely remove and dispose of it. PPE kit should be compliant with the latest guidance and staff should have had specific PPE training throughout the pandemic.
For some people, seeing staff wearing PPE could make them anxious or fearful, especially if they have mental or sensory deprivation, or dementia. Show the inspector how you’ve communicated with and reassured them.
5. Is there adequate testing?
Regular testing needs to be available for staff and service users but you also need a plan for what happens if tests come back positive. Some people may not consent to testing and you’ll also need to consider how to best respond to this while demonstrating compassion and understanding.
6. Is your premises clean and safe?
The chances are, keeping the home spotless is already top of your agenda, and you’ll already have cleaning schedules and use the right cleaning products. But have a look at the layout of the home to ensure it’s properly ventilated, that indoor and outdoor spaces are safe to use, and crucially, check whether your COVID-19 measures have actually resulted in any other risks, such as affecting fire safety or increasing the risks of falls.
7. Are staff fully trained and fully supported?
If staff move between several care homes, you need to look at how to minimise the risk of infection, especially if you’re using agency staff or covering for people on sick leave. Keep records of additional training staff have had and any lessons learned if you’ve had isolated cases among staff or outbreaks at the home. Think about how you’re catering for staff wellbeing, including your Registered Manager, who is likely feeling under pressure, and what you’re doing to help people return from sick leave safely.
8. Is your infection prevention and control policy up-to-date and implemented properly?
By now, you should have a COVID-19 infection prevention and control policy in place that covers all of the points above. But does it cover extra measures you’ve taken to keep staff or service users in particularly high-risk groups safe?
This includes but is not limited to BAME individuals, people with pre-existing conditions and those who are obese. We’re more than a year into the pandemic, so this policy should have been audited internally by now and you should be able to demonstrate changes you’ve made to further improve safety.
Finally, your policy should include contingency planning for future outbreaks including a likely surge over winter.
You can read the full CQC guidelines on COVID-19 infection and prevention control here or get in touch with the team for advice. We’re still carrying out mock CQC inspections both remotely and in person, so get yours in the diary today.