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Unit for Covid patients at Grantham care home to close as vaccinations take effect




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.

Staff of the Covid-19 Designated Unit at Apple Trees Care Home in Grantham. (46468975)
Staff of the Covid-19 Designated Unit at Apple Trees Care Home in Grantham. (46468975)

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. 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 April 30. It will revert to a short stay and reablement service.

Sal Barton, unit manager at the Covid-19 Designated Unit. (46468977)
Sal Barton, unit manager at the Covid-19 Designated Unit. (46468977)

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.”

Violet Baxter was a patient at the Covid-19 Designated Unit, before moving to OSJCT Whitefriars in Stamford. (46468979)
Violet Baxter was a patient at the Covid-19 Designated Unit, before moving to OSJCT Whitefriars in Stamford. (46468979)

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.”

Michelle Lee-Smith, community occupational therapist, said: “The Designated Unit Team are passionate about providing the best care for the patients and their families, working jointly with the multi-disciplinary team (MDT), and continuing with therapy plans.

"Many successes have been achieved through this partnership approach and due to the staff and their direct care for patients. A big thank you to the team from me. They have been a pleasure to work alongside.”



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