North London Partners in health and care

NCL care homes receive integrated support from local health and care system

Local authorities, public health and NHS commissioners and providers across North Central London have been working in close partnership to support local care home staff and residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our wide-ranging response has incorporated actions at both borough and NCL-level aimed at:

  • improving infection prevention and control (IPC), including access to personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Increasing access to testing for care home staff and residents
  • ensuring timely and consistent clinical support from community services and general practice
  • scaling up capacity for home care and other care support packages
  • ensuring a sufficient number of care places/beds are available
  • helping care home managers to navigate and respond to national guidance, information and best practice
  • producing a workforce development framework to support the skills, resilience and wellbeing of the care workforce.

Specific examples include:

  • Daily contact with care providers led by local authority teams to support a clear understanding of issues such as workforce and service capacity and enable us to target resources to where they are needed   
  • Launching a dedicated IPC helpline, staffed by specialists, who can advise care home staff on IPC issues including PPE, phone 020 3816 3403, email:
  • Holding weekly interactive webinars and online Q&A sessions for the care sector, which complement those being provided by the London public health teams. The webinars provide an opportunity to address any questions or queries that colleagues in the care sector have on testing, infection control or PPE access issues in the workplaces. 
  • A programme of work to support care homes to access to NHS Mail accounts (150 have done this so far), enabling care home staff to securely communicate with GPs and other NHS clinicians, participate in virtual ward rounds and receive appropriate information such as test results and discharge summaries.
  • Working to organise the purchasing additional equipment for care homes across NCL including thermometers, blood pressure monitors and pulse oximeters to help care staff conduct basic observations, as directed by clinicians, during virtual ward rounds.
  • Distributing Facebook Portals to 268 care providers in NCL including nursing homes, residential homes, hospices and extra-care and supported housing sites, so that residents can make video calls with their loved ones. The devices were secured at no cost to NCL through a national NHS X and Facebook pilot.
  • Completing a pilot in a local care home to provide wrap-around support for staff and resident testing. The initial pilot is being assessed and we are extending the pilot to ten NCL care homes where teams would be mobilised to screen staff and residents in homes.  
  • Working with care homes to register and use the national Capacity Tracker and the London Market Insight tool to give an overview of key information across the market (e.g. homes with symptomatic staff; proportion of workforce not able to work)
  • Supporting an NCL WhatsApp Group chat room which is hosted by, and for, registered managers where they can receive advice from a doctor and access learning and emotional support through an externally facilitated weekly ‘coffee check-in’.
  • Launching a dedicated webpage for care home support and guidance and downloadable information pack for NCL care home staff so they can easily access the latest guidance, support, training and information for the sector – including updates on infection prevention and control and PPE; staff wellbeing; resident and staff testing; capacity tracking; and end of life care.
  • Local authorities have agreed a package of financial support for care homes to reflect the additional cost of providing care. Councils have also commissioned additional beds, shared between boroughs and across health and care, to support smooth discharge pathways for our residents.
  • Information on accessing testing for care home staff and residents available on a dedicated care home testing webpage Resident testing is being expanded in NCL in line with the latest government guidance, which can be found on this webpage. 

Reviewing and accelerating our response

This strong collaborative working is enabling us to rapidly respond to two new items of national guidance issued by NHS England and NHS Improvement on 1 May: 

  1. COVID-19 response: Primary care and community health support care home residents 

This guidance requires us to implement a model of integrated support for care homes in each of our NCL boroughs by 15 May – with specific asks from primary and community care services. 

A gap analysis has been conducted in each borough to assess how effectively both established arrangements and additional support already mobilised through our COVID-19 response meets these requirements.

CCG, local government, primary care and community care representives are now using this insight to finalise integrated borough plans, with some actions delivered locally and others collaboratively at NCL level.

  1. Urgent further CCG assistance to Local Resilience Forums in supporting care homes: Training the Trainers on Infection Prevention & Control

This guidance requires us to help ‘train the trainers’ in care homes on Public Health England’s recommended approach to infection prevention and control (IPC).

In response, two ‘super trainers’ were immediately mobilised to provide face to face IPC training from 6 May. Providers and homes with the greatest need have been prioritised and partners are working to identify more trainers.

More information

We will continue to keep you updated over the coming weeks on continued efforts to support the care sector through the pandemic and subsequent recovery. 

If you have any questions, please email Meena Mahil, or Richard Taylor-Elphick