Meet the team at work testing in Norfolk’s care homes
PUBLISHED: 07:30 20 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:01 20 May 2020
A team of community nurses on the frontline of testing have spoken of the role they have played in responding to the coronavirus crisis and seeing Norfolk’s healthcare system work in a way “never seen before”.
The Infection Prevention and Control team (IPAC) at the Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust (NCH&C) are currently testing for the virus in care homes.
Before the outbreak, the team would be monitoring infections on trust wards, upholding policies about infection control in the trust and carrying out training and services such as flu vaccinations for staff and in care homes.
Led by Beth Kimber, the team includes Natalie Abbs, Bibian Anibueze, Donna Hudson, Simon Isbell, Lenny Neale Krommenhoek, Mandy Sharpe, Jackie Thomas and Rachel Walker.
They have been carrying out swab tests since February.
It was February 26, to be exact, as the date is “etched” in Mrs Kimber’s mind, when within four hours they had set up a drive through testing site at the Norwich Community Hospital expecting the arrival of young people who had recently returned from Italy.
The head of IPAC said: “I think we knew we would be involved. We did not really realise at the time just how much we would be involved.
“To be honest when it first started I fully suspected and did discuss with the team that what we provide as a flu service during the winter months the clinical commissioning group (CCG) would likely flip into a service to manage Covid in the care homes.
“We moved from swabbing the school children, to swabbing the general public, to swabbing frontline staff and on April 20 the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) took the service over which allowed us to step across and screen in care homes.
“What is being recognised now is that care homes need some significant support in terms of training.”
Following the opening of the testing site, the team worked with the East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH), testing hundreds of people, some as far as Peterborough and Ely, as well as launching a service to go out to people’s homes who needed testing.
Mrs Kimber, who has been a nurse for nearly 40 years, said the team has had greater involvement supporting staff and developing a whole new way of working and many rapid changes.
She said: “The team have stepped up massively. We normally run a five day service and office hours. We are now running a seven day service and on call on top of that.
“This is a whole new way of working for them.
“[The staff] are frightened, we have staff that are shielding for health reasons of their own, health reasons of families. It is quite an emotional thing when you have to deal with them in the face of a positive result, because they are really scared.”
The team said at times they would reassure very young children as well as members of staff coming for tests.
Lenny Neale Krommenhoek said it was important to try and reassure people when they arrived wearing full protective personal equipment, and provided levity by telling those being tested “I’m smiling underneath my mask”.
On April 20, the screening of health care staff was taken over by the NNUH, allowing the team to focus on testing in care homes.
The team has visited care homes 230 times, with some multiple visits, carrying out approximately 1,300 swabbings.
Ms Walker and her colleague Mr Isbell have also been visiting care homes to deliver training to future trainers who will support care homes across Norfolk.
Ms Neale Krommenhoek said: “Swabbing in a care home is a challenge. Each care home is different, if you swab in your own environment you know what there is, where it is and how to do it. In a care home it is going up the stairs, down the stairs, it’s all nooks and crannies it is always difficult to get your PPE on and off and juggle around with all the things we have to do. It is much more challenging to go to the care home than swab from your own premise.”
She added the pandemic has shown the importance of infection control and praised the fantastic efforts of teams across NCH&C, from its nurse to emergency planning.
Mrs Kimber added: “There has been huge collaboration within the organisation, what can’t be forgotten is for the first time we have seen the whole of Norfolk healthcare system come together really well in an incredibly supportive way, which we have not seen before.”
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