Care HomesNews

COVID-19 Designated Unit Closes At Grantham Care Home As Transmission Rates Drop

A unit which has cared for more than 80 people during the COVID-19 pandemic is to close as vaccinations take effect in the over-65 age group.

The COVID-19 Designated Unit at Apple Trees Care Home in Grantham, run by The Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT), was set up last year as part of an initiative led by the Department of Health and Social Care. OSJCT was approached by Lincolnshire County Council to open the unit for people with COVID-19 leaving hospital. It was established within an existing 16-bed unit at Apple Trees Care and Reablement Centre and became operational in October 2020 when local transmissions rates in Lincolnshire were challenging for the heath and care system.

The unit was operated within strict infection control guidelines and had its own designated staff team of 17 led by Unit Manager, Sal Barton, a Registered Nurse who joined OSJCT in December 2016 as Head of Care at Beckside, North Hykeham. Sal was seconded to the unit to oversee day-to-day clinical care and discharge of patients.

With COVID-19 rates dropping and the high uptake and effectiveness of vaccinations, especially for over 65-year-olds in Lincolnshire, the COVID-19 Designated Unit will no longer be needed and will close on 30 April. It will revert to a short stay and reablement service.

Violet Baxter was a patient at the COVID-19 Designated Unit, before moving to OSJCT Whitefriars in Stamford earlier this month. She said: “The care was fantastic and unwavering. I am full of praise for the team who were looking after me and several others, multi-tasking during a difficult period.”

Sal said: “I am incredibly proud of the team, we pulled together, followed national guidelines, and strict protocols developed by the Trust, to keep people safe during unprecedented times. We cared for some very vulnerable and frightened people. It was uplifting to see the many who recovered and went home. We also cared for people who sadly lost their lives to the disease too.

“In some ways the certainty that every patient had COVID-19 meant that we knew what we were dealing with. We’ve all had our vaccines now but even before they were available, we were confident that our PPE, protocols and calm methodical ways of working would mitigate the risk, leaving us free to focus on caring for our patients.”

Sal and her team are looking forward to a well-deserved break. They will isolate at home for 10 days, due to their exposure to patients with COVID-19, and then return to the substantive roles they had before they were seconded.

Melanie Rowley, Lincolnshire County Council Contract Manager said: “Working with Sal and her team, albeit virtually, has been a pleasure. Sal has shown strength of leadership by demonstrating her ability to collaborate effectively with multiple services; challenging decisions and things “not quite right” in an appropriate way; engaging with review and discussion processes; and supporting her team to be part of the process.

“Patients have been well cared for, and able to feel safe and respected, during a clinically vulnerable time. I wish Sal and the team all the best, thank you for the hard work you have all put in.”

Care Home Open Week Set to Virtually Reunite Isolated Residents with Local Communities

This year’s Care Home Open Week is set to take place from the 28th June – 4th July 2021. The event encourages care homes across the country to create a fun event that helps to showcase what goes on in the UK’s many fantastic care homes. This year’s event will be adapted with a range of virtual activities to ensure that it is COVID secure, with care home and community safety paramount.

Run by Championing Social Care, a volunteer-led organisation that aims to shine a light on the social care sector, this year’s event is being sponsored by Civitas Investment Management ( and Virgin Money ( The support and generosity of the organisations will enable the event to reach more care homes than ever at the time they have sadly struggled to remain in touch with their communities.

Mitesh Dhanak, Founder of Precious Homes and part of the organising committee for the event, commented: “The open week event is designed to enrich the lives of care home residents and local communities by reminding people that their local care homes are home to unique, intelligent and charming characters, and run by special people that do care. Sadly, the pandemic has made it difficult for care homes to remain at the heart of their communities, which has been frustrating and in many cases devastating for residents, family members and care providers. As planning moves for Care Home Open Week, the top priority is, of course, to keep everyone safe.”

Care Home Open Week allows care homes to showcase what they have to offer, promoting facilities, activities and services. This year’s event is also an opportunity to celebrate and thank the incredible care workers who have remained on the frontline throughout the pandemic, as well as giving individuals considering a career in the sector a first-hand opportunity to find out how rewarding working in the sector can be.

Andrew Dawber, Group Director of Civitas Investment Management:

“We are delighted to be involved in Care Home Week supporting the social care sector in its on-going pursuit to enrich the lives of care home residents and vulnerable people. At Civitas we believe everyone should feel they are a supported and included member of their local community. We are honoured to assist Care Home Open Week in reaching more care homes and vulnerable people connecting them to their community, especially throughout the challenges faced by the global pandemic.”

As Care Homes register and share their excitement for the event, the Championing Social Care committee is working hard to ensure that the event connects communities while creating COVID secure activities for care teams and their residents across the UK. This might be starting a pen pal scheme with a local school or arranging delivery of flowers to your local support service the possibilities are endless.

Derek Breingan, Head of Health & Social Care at Virgin Money:

‘‘Never has the role of social care in our communities been highlighted more than the work and dedication of those working in and supporting our loved ones within care homes in the last 12 months across the country. I am really pleased that we at Virgin Money can, in sponsoring this week, help to promote all that is good, positive and inspiring in our vital social care sector.’’

Care homes can register their event today via the Championing Social Care website []. Those who register will receive an event pack as well as regular tips, updates and ideas. An event map of participating care homes will also be available online.