Theresa Steed, home manager of our sister home Tunbridge Wells Care Centre, has given evidence at the Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt Inquiry organised jointly by the Science and Technology and the Health and Social Care Committees. The inquiry is being co-chaired by Jeremy Hunt MP, former health secretary and chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee and Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells and chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee.

When questioned by Greg Clark, Theresa spoke about the challenges faced by her and her staff at the Canford Healthcare-owned home during the early days of the pandemic. These included a lack of testing, concerns over the safety of residents and the need to keep them in regular contact with relatives once visiting was suspended. She spoke movingly of the impact of the virus on families.

“Having someone pass away with Covid, whether it’s direct or linked to, has a massive impact on families,” she said. “Being able to support the staff and the families that actually are sitting with their loved ones not knowing whether they can take their masks off and give their mum and dad a kiss and a hug at the end – it’s really hard.”  

Theresa also described the care home’s current visiting policy – a booking system that enables each family to see their relative every week in the garden (weather permitting) or in the spacious reception area. There are strict hygiene and cleaning protocols in place before and after each visit and visitors are screened before entering the home. Visits are supplemented with regular video calls via Zoom and WhatsApp so that residents can keep in close contact with their relatives.

There is extra support for families of residents who are at end of life. “That is crucial,” she told the Joint Select Committee. “To keep that link there and for them to say goodbye.”

Happily, too, tests are now plentiful, with staff are being tested weekly and residents every 28 days.

“Our residents are among the most vulnerable people in society and we take their safety very seriously. We work hard to protect them, as well as their relatives and our staff and look upon them all as part of our extended family,” she said.