Julie Morgan, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
The Care Homes Action Plan, published in July, set out our high-level actions under a range of themes to ensure the care home sector was well supported ahead of winter pressures, learning lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is a component of our overarching Welsh Government Winter Protection Plan.
In October, I issued a summary of progress against the action plan’s six key areas: infection prevention and control; personal protective equipment; general and clinical support for care homes; residents’ well-being; social care workers’ well-being and financial sustainability. Today I have published a final update.
We anticipated the winter would be challenging and that is proving to be the case, particularly in some parts of Wales where we know that pressures on our care system are currently severe. But once again we have seen the health and social care sectors rise to these challenges, working together as one to provide support to those most vulnerable in our communities. Our care home providers and their staff have also continued to work exceptionally hard to keep their residents safe and well during this difficult time. I applaud everyone’s dedication, commitment and professionalism. They genuinely have made a huge difference.
The health and well-being of staff working within social care has never been more important and is a key feature of our Action Plan. I am pleased that, working with Social Care Wales, we have been able to make such good progress in this area, particularly on the establishment of an Employee Assistance Programme, providing health and well-being support, including one-to-one counselling for all social care staff across the sector.
We know that people living in care homes are at greater risk of infection and throughout the pandemic, we have worked to balance the rights of care home residents with the need to protect them from coronavirus. The Care Homes Action Plan sets out a package of infection prevention and control measures to help manage COVID-19 in care homes in Wales and keep residents and staff safe. The continuing COVID-19 pandemic brings an imperative to share learning and identify areas for systems improvement. The progress that has been made to develop a clinical contingency template and a draft training strategy to support care homes, alongside an enhanced testing programme for residents, staff and visitors is a testament to all those involved.
Our national action plan is supported by regional action plans from each of the 7 Regional Partnership Boards in Wales. These clearly show that there has been a significant shift in the level of support that has been provided to care homes throughout the pandemic. There is increased partnership working and communication with care homes and the sharing of good practice and lessons learnt is also a common feature. I would like to acknowledge, in particular, the way health boards, local authorities and their third sector partners have worked together to address staff shortages in the independent care home sector to enable them to continue to operate safely.
March 2021 will mark a year since restrictions were introduced to tackle COVID-19 and protect our families, our communities and our health and care services. I will provide a further update at that time, reflecting on the lessons we have learned and next steps.