Halescare staff following latest Public Health England guidance on coronavirus (updated 27 March 2020)

23 March | By

We are reassuring our clients and their families that our care staff are following the latest Government and Public Health England (PHE) coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.

We employ more than 1500 frontline care staff across England. They provide care in people’s homes (through home care and live-in care) and in extra care and nursing homes.

High standards of hygiene from our care staff

Our Managing Director Nicola Mewse said:
The number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK is increasing and Hales will always take our caring responsibilities extremely seriously. We are keeping fully up-to-date with official advice, making sure that all our staff understand and follow the very latest COVID-19 guidance for social or community care and residential settings.

In the guidance, Public Health England (PHE) recommend that the best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hand and respiratory hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (within 2 metres) with any potentially infected person. Our care and support staff always maintain high standards of hygiene and follow robust infection control guidelines, but given that we care for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, during this outbreak we expect them to be extra vigilant about hand-washing, coughs and sneezes, and keeping clients’ homes and our care schemes clean. The wellbeing of our clients and staff is our highest priority.

Policies and procedures in place
We are monitoring all our services and receiving regular updates from managers and staff on their well-being and that of the people they support. For any who have been advised to self isolate we are supporting them to live safely and comfortably, and arranging essential shopping/deliveries to them. We would like to reassure people that we have robust policies and procedures in place, including business continuity and contingency planning with our public sector health and social care partners, as underlined in the Department of Health’s coronavirus action plan published on 3 March.

According to PHE in normal day-to-day activities facemasks do not provide protection from respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19. PHE recommends that facemasks should be worn by infected individuals only when advised by a healthcare worker (to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people) and not routinely by care staff. However, we have adequate stocks of all PPE including gloves, aprons and masks for this purpose. Upon receipt of additional supplies which are reported to be on their way from Department of Health, we are providing facemasks to our staff to offer further reassurance to service users that fall into the most high risk categories.

General coronavirus hygiene principles
The general hygiene principles everyone should be following include:

    • • Washing your hands often – with soap and water (or using alcohol sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if handwashing facilities are not available) – this is particularly important after taking public transport
    • • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin
    • • Employees washing their hands:
      • – before leaving home
      • – on arrival at work
      • – after using the toilet
      • – after breaks and sporting activities
      • – before food preparation
      • – before eating any food, including snacks
      • – before leaving work
      • – on arrival at home
      • – before and after any care activity with clients
      • • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
      • • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces

      COVID-19 (coronavirus) frequently-asked questions

      Q. I am reliant on my Hales Home Care workers, what will happen if the virus spreads and they are no longer able to come?
      A. Hales Home Care has Business Continuity Plans in place to cover emergencies such as a viral outbreak or pandemic. All Hales Home Care Care and support staff follow strict infection, prevention and control guidelines. Inter-office/care scheme support networks give flexibility in terms of severe lack of staff in any one service; bank staff and, if necessary, agency workers and appropriate volunteers will be utilised. Off-duty staff may be asked to provide cover at short notice if they are available.

      All relevant employment protection regulations which may alter at short notice subject to government advice considering the current Covid-19 outbreak would be complied with, relating to the number of hours worked within a specified period and breaks between periods of working. People who are reliant on the service are prioritised for home visits, where others have family who can support them in the interim or non-essential visits are made such as a weekly shopping call for instance. We are providing additional services for the most vulnerable to ensure they maintain access to medication and food/nutrition.

      We would ask that service users and their families recognise the challenges our teams are under and show flexibility in relation to the times of visits and the care team supporting them. We cannot accommodate preferences during this time.

      Q. Can I still visit my relative?
      A. Hales Home Care extra care schemes are taking advice from local Health Protection Agencies regarding restrictions & closure of schemes to visitors. At the time of writing, all schemes are now closed to all but essential visits. You may still drop parcels and provisions with our staff who will support your family member to put things away.

      We are reassuring all service users and their families that there are lots of ways to keep in touch whilst we discourage visits in person.

      If you do decide to continue to visit your family member during this pandemic we are now asking that you carry out the care duties during those visits where possible in order to minimise risk to our care staff. Please get in contact with your local branch to discuss how you can help us to keep everyone safe.

      Q. Can we ask staff or service users/families to disclose where they have travelled or are planning to go to on holiday?
      A. Whilst most people have now cancelled all travel plans we can ask people to voluntarily disclose their destination, however people have a basic human right to a private and family life both in and out of the workplace.

      Given the travel restrictions now in place worldwide and the increasing volume of Covid-19 cases in the UK we are working with staff to minimise absence through annual leave and restrict travel of staff between branches to further reduce the risk of spreading infection.

      Q. I am a carer for someone I don’t live with; what can I do to support them?
      A. Create an emergency plan for you and those you look after. Include the cared-for person’s name, address and contact details, details of other family carers and who can be contacted in an emergency, plus details of any medication the cared-for person requires. Sign up for prescription delivery services and arrange support for grocery delivery or alternative shopping.

      If you live with those you care for and you think you’ve been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, call 111 for advice as soon as possible and tell them that you are a carer; they will advise on support for you and the cared-for person.

      Q. How is the virus spread?
      A. The coronaviruses are spread from someone infected to other close contacts through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects. The time between being exposed to the virus and when symptoms first appear is typically 5 to 6 days although can be from 2 to 14 days. This is why people who might have been in contact with a confirmed case are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

      Q. How can I protect myself / my family?
      A. The best way to protect yourself is the same as you would against any respiratory infection. Practise good hygiene by:

            • • making sure to clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub
            • • cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow
            • • avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
            • • make sure you stay home if you are sick & practice the Government guidance on social distancing

            Q. Do face masks protect against COVID-19? Which face masks?
            A. Face masks are not recommended for the general population. People who have symptoms and might be infected with COVID-19 are required to stay in isolation at home and should wear a surgical face mask when in the same room as another person and when seeking medical advice to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to anyone else.

            Fluid repellent face masks will be worn by care staff who are at high risk of infection or who have been in contact with a suspected case.

            Q. How will I know if my neighbourhood is affected?
            A. Maintain checks on your local authority/council website pages for updates on their contingencies in relation to the virus in your area.

            Q. I don’t know how I’ll manage being isolated for 14 days
            A. Learn how to self isolate; the NHS website is up-to-date with latest guidance which states:


                  • • try to keep at least 2 metres (3 steps) from other people in your home, particularly older people or those with long-term health conditions
                  • • ask friends and family and delivery services to deliver things like food shopping and medicines – but avoid contact with them
                  • • sleep alone if possible
                  • • regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday to yourself twice if you are unsure whether it has been 20 seconds)
                  • • drink plenty of water and take paracetamol to help with your symptoms
                  • DON’T

                  • • have visitors (ask people to leave deliveries outside)
                  • • leave the house, for example to go for a walk, to school or public places

                  Q. Do I need a medical certificate if I am self-isolating?
                  A. If you do not have any symptoms there is no testing that can be done to predict whether or not you will become unwell. Medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness (according to the law), i.e. employees can currently self-certify for the first 7 days. After 7 days, it is up to the employer to decide what evidence (if any) they require from the employee.

                  The Government is planning to introduce a temporary alternative to the current fit note, meaning those in self-isolation will be able to obtain notification via NHS 111 as evidence.

                  Q. What if someone becomes unwell while they are at work?
                  A. If someone becomes unwell while at work or been in contact with a person who has the virus, they should be removed to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people and, if possible, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door. If possible, open a window for ventilation.

                  The person who is unwell should call NHS 111 from their mobile (or 999 if it’s an emergency) for advice. They should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects. They should cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag or pocket then throw the tissue in the bin. If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow. If they need to go to the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom if available.

                  Q. Do I need to be separate from other people in my home if I am isolating?
                  A. Yes. If you are sharing your home with others, you should stay in a different room from other people or be separated as much as possible. Use a separate bathroom, if available. Make sure that you do not share a room with people who are at risk of severe disease, such as elderly people and those who have heart, lung or kidney conditions, and diabetes.

                  Q. What about groceries, medicines and essentials if I can’t go out?
                  A. If you need essential supplies ask a family member or friend (who is not in isolation) to deliver them to your home or shop for groceries online. Have deliveries left at your door.

                  There is no need to bulk-buy products at supermarkets, including toilet paper, paracetamol and canned food.

                  It is prudent for households to have a small stock of non-perishable groceries to last for up to 14 days. However, it’s important to note the role of family and friends in supporting those in isolation and also to note that online grocery delivery services are now increasingly unavailable. Should you require additional support please liaise with your local Hales Home Care team who will be happy to provide access to additional help.

                  We are working hard to provide Survival Packs for the most vulnerable service users who are unable to access groceries any other way.

                  Q. I’ve heard about social distancing, what is social distancing?
                  A. Social distancing is an effective measure, but it is recognised that it cannot be practised in all situations and the aim is to generally reduce potential for transmission. While practising social distancing, people can travel to work where they are a recognised key worker (including public transport). All non-essential activities and travel should now be stopped – social distancing includes:

                    • • avoiding gatherings of more than 2 people at any time
                    • • avoiding small gatherings in enclosed spaces, for example family celebrations
                    • • attempting to keep a distance of 2 metres between themselves and other people where possible, for example when they are out and about in public places
                    • • no shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people
                    • • avoiding visiting vulnerable people, such as those in care homes or hospitals, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment
                    • Social distancing is not enough for people who have travelled to affected areas or been in direct contact with an affected person. They should self isolate entirely according to current guidelines.

                      Q. I’ve been told to self-isolate myself as a precaution. Can my pet stay with me? How do I look after my pet during this time?
                      A. There is currently no evidence that pets can become sick from Covid-19. It is possible the virus could survive for short periods on a pet (e.g on their fur) but there is no evidence that pets can spread Covid-19 to people. If you have to self-isolate:

                    • • Ideally have another person in your household take on the day-to-day care of your pet, to minimise close contact. If you live alone, then consider asking a friend or family member to look after your pet during this time. If neither of the above options are possible, make sure you follow good hygiene procedures. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your pet, their food or disposing of their waste. Avoid letting your pet lick you, especially your face, and don’t share food with them
                    • • Exercise – ensuring your pet continues to get daily activity is important for both their physical and mental health. If your cats are used to going outdoors, then as long as you are washing your hands before and after handling them, there is no reason to stop them doing this. For dogs, a friend or professional dog walker can take your dog out for you
                    • • Food – buying food and other items online for delivery can help ensure you don’t run out of pet supplies
                    • Q. How can I help if I know my neighbours/friends/community is affected?
                      A. Stay safe by ensuring everyday preventive actions including regular hand washing and there are many ways you can help those affected:

                    • • Create a list of local organisations in the event that one of you need access to information, healthcare services, support, or resources. Consider including organisations that provide mental health or counselling services, food, and other supplies
                    • • Create emergency contact lists of family, friends, neighbours, healthcare providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, and other community resources
                    • • Consider volunteering through local community groups who are supporting essential services
                    • • Stay up-to-date using trusted sources of information. The UK Government and the NHS will keep people informed of new advice and developments. Please check the following sources of advice frequently:
                    • • The UK coronavirus (COVID-19) page will keep you in touch with how the Government is responding.
                    • • The NHS coronavirus (COVID-19) page includes a wide range of health-related information.
                    • • If you are planning to travel abroad check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice page.
                    • • Follow Public Health England or The Department of Health and Social Care on Twitter for regular updates.

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