Covid-19: How a Norwich care home is preparing for autumn and winter

Care homes were hit hard during the first wave of the Covid pandemic. As the 16 September deadline for all staff to have their first dose of the vaccine arrives, BBC News visited one home to find out how workers and residents are preparing.

“We’re coming to a very vulnerable time – the winter – when the virus does flourish.”


‘I think we are in good hands’


Josephine Mary Mann

image source, Shaun Whitmore / BBC

St John’s House in Norwich is home to 45 residents, including Josephine Mary Mann, who moved in just before the pandemic.

“It was a bit uncomfortable,” she says.

“The things that we normally did, like the entertainment and the bingo, that all went. But gradually that’s now coming back.

“We are getting back to normal. Visitors can come and go as they please, which is lovely.”

The 88-year-old says she found the pandemic worrying but is confident the vaccine has “made a big difference”.

“I think everything possible is being done to contain the virus and I think we are in good hands,” she says.

Mrs Mann says she welcomes the government’s policy that all care home staff must be double-vaccinated by 11 November, with their first dose by 16 September.

“The staff have done very well under difficult circumstances,” she says,

“They’re very caring and look after us well. We feel safe in their hands.”


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‘I do not want to be around anyone that is not vaccinated’


Fiona Mawby

image source, Shaun Whitmore / BBC

Fiona Mawby, wellbeing manager at the home, says the vaccine has made this year “much more positive”.

“There’s no comparison to last year,” she says.

“I know it’s been hard for everybody but we have moved on so much better.”

Ms Mawby is in favour of care home staff being double-vaccinated.

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“I do not want to be around anyone that is not vaccinated because of all the things we’ve been through,” she says.

“I know the residents wouldn’t feel at ease to be with people without the vaccine. It would be awful.”

But Ms Mawby says she understands why people were initially “wary” of the jab.

“This is a new thing for everybody but we have more research, more knowledge, now. We can appreciate how good it is.”


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‘Last winter must have been one of the grimmest times ever’


Sanjay Kaushal

image source, Shaun Whitmore / BBC

Dr Sanjay Kaushal is chairman of Castle Meadow Group, which runs the facility.

“The last 18 months have been the most challenging time over the last 20 years being in social care,” he says.

“Last winter must have been one of the grimmest times ever.”

Twelve of the home’s residents died with Covid.

“It was a heavy price and the fallout is still being felt now. What makes it really heart-breaking is that we lost some residents so close to the vaccine rollout.

“We were seeing the finishing line but never quite made it.”

Dr Kaushal says the vaccine has been a “game-changer”.

“Going forward now, this coming winter we are a lot more confident because all of out staff are going to be double-vaccinated and all our residents are double-jabbed.”

Although he supports the mandatory vaccinations for care home staff, Dr Kaushal says he feels it is a “double-edged sword”, as it will mean some facilities will struggle to recruit staff.

“Luckily all our staff are for this but I know other colleagues are facing challenges,” he says.

“A lot of care home operators I’ve spoken to are very worried and frustrated.

“We’re coming to a very vulnerable time – the winter – when the virus does flourish.”

Dr Kaushal says the home will continue with precautions for residents, staff and visitors.

“They will have their temperature taken, wear face masks and be asked to do regular testing,” he says.

“We are not out of the woods yet.”

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