A team that made sure care home residents could still have family visits – including physical touch – during the pandemic has won a prestigious UK award.
Greenock Medical Aid Society’s meaningful visits team was named winner of the Nursing Older People Award at the RCN Nursing Awards 2021 on October 12.
The judges praised its creative and innovative approach to enabling meaningful visits by loved ones during the pandemic when many care homes had a no physical contact policy for visits.
Lead Andrea Wyllie drew up plans for a visiting pilot using rapid COVID-19 testing, risk assessments and protocols. Its success was recognised and replicated nationally.
When a further lockdown was announced for Boxing Day in 2020, the team worked extra shifts to ensure everyone had a meaningful visit before it came into place and then lobbied the government to allow indoor visiting as soon as possible.
Ms Wyllie says: ‘By reintroducing meaningful visits safely we saw improvements in residents’ and family members’ overall wellbeing. Our data shows an increase in appetites of those we care for.
‘As meaningful visits got underway, we saw a significant decrease in those at risk of malnutrition. We saw moods lift and a feeling of life and buzz return into our care homes. We also demonstrated that we could balance the rights of residents and family members in being back together, with the risks that increasing footfall could bring.
‘We realised that we needed to be brave, but by showing how this could be done safely and done successfully we encouraged other providers to also open up and willingly shared all our risk assessments and protocols.’
The judges were impressed by the team’s commitment to the holistic care of its residents and the way its brave but evidence-led approach laid the foundations for the Scottish Governments Opening with Care guidance and paved the way for all care homes in Scotland to reintroduce meaningful indoor visits.
Joanne Bosanquet, chair of judges and chief executive for the Foundation of Nursing Studies, says: ‘Andrea is a force of nature. She overcame political and organisational challenges to maintain visiting in a care home during the pandemic by using a rights and risks model. Andrea is a real advocate for her community and keeps going whatever the obstacles she faces.’
‘It’s a huge honour to win,’ says Ms Wyllie. ‘It’s so validating for our team to be appreciated in this way, to see their hard work and commitment so richly rewarded. However, we did this project because we believed strongly it was the right thing to do for our residents’ wellbeing. We did it because connecting people again was what really mattered.’