Across the UK, Lifeways employs almost 11,000 colleagues supporting nearly 5,000 adults with diverse and complex needs, across a variety of community settings, including our supported living services and residential homes. The COVID-19 pandemic means getting things right has never been more important for many thousands of people.
Lifeways has spent the past year – and all the years before it - supporting people to stay safe. Alongside fellow care providers, we have rapidly adapted how we work in response to the pandemic and the commitment of all of our teams has been just remarkable.
These thousands of people have blessed us with their enormous combined experience to bring us through the pandemic safely. They have also given us an extraordinary perspective on how things have unfolded throughout the country.
Sadly, we have lost both colleagues and people we support to this cruel virus – a tragic reminder of the seriousness of the task we face.
In February 2021, vaccination feels like the highlight of the year. However, what I read in the newspapers is not what I experience daily in my organisation. Vaccination uptake among our staff and the people we care for has been much more enthusiastic than has been commonly reported.
I suspect some of the discrepancy relates to the challenges in tracking information across so many organisations in the sector. The good news is we are on track for vaccination of 90% of our staff and the people we care for - and we continue to support and reassure those who may still have concerns about taking up the vaccine.
We have supported our frontline managers to make sure GPs understand the needs of the people we support and make sure they are in the right priority group for vaccination. Of course, there have been concerns and challenges along the way, but we have found open communication and tenacity have generally succeeded in overcoming them.
It is a wonderful irony that the very fact of being forced apart has helped us to communicate better than ever.
Lifeways has perhaps had fortunate timing in this respect, having just implemented Workplace, Facebook’s professional, secure digital environment for all our colleagues to talk, meet and share.
The vaccine rollout has been a shining example – it has enabled us to keep everyone updated in real-time by sharing information, dispelling myths and enabling frontline teams to share their positive vaccination experiences. I have no doubt this has been a major factor in helping colleagues overcome concerns.
Learning for the future
Vaccination has also been an important opportunity for us to learn for the future, bringing to life the issues and aspirations behind the upcoming Health and Care Bill. For example, Lifeways works closely with 147 local authorities and 85 NHS organisations across the UK to support our staff and the people we care for to access their vaccination.
Many different approaches were adopted across the country, and we were responsive to them all. Some worked better than others and this presents a real-life example of the opportunities we can unlock through better integration of health and social care in the months and years to come to share best practice.
The past year has been a tragedy, yet we must allow ourselves to see the incredible achievements and positive spirit which has endured. We will nurture both to make sure we continue to keep our colleagues and the people we care for as safe as possible.
We hope vaccination really is the light at the end of the tunnel. Even so, we won’t be returning to how things were ‘pre-COVID-19’ – rather, we want to the post-pandemic world to be a better place for all of us.