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Getting ready for Christmas

As we approach the end of yet another year and are all looking forward to Christmas as well as another New Year, it is a good time to stop for a moment and make sure that you and your team are ready to deliver safe and effective care over the festive season.


Anyone who works in social care knows that the work does not stop just because the rest of the country has closed down to enjoy the holiday season. We also know that while the delivery of care remains our key priority both Service Users and staff will want to let their hair down a little.


What then can the Registered Manager do to ensure that the festive season is both festive and safe?


Staffing


In a previous blog, we suggested that Managers should prepare for winter early, ensuring that things crucial to winter resilience, like boilers, are serviced and ready for the additional burden that cold weather brings. We also identified the need to have contingency plans in case of bad weather.


The same is true of Christmas and the festive season as a whole. Managers need to be prepared with a plan A and a plan B not only to cover the potential for bad weather but also the inevitable staff absences which occur at this time of year. Having a reserve of staff prepared to work over the holiday period is a wise precaution as is making sure there is more than one person who can cover the on-call – managers need time off too!


Infection Prevention and Control


Infection prevention and control (IP&C) is a year-round activity. Long sleeved Christmas jumpers while very festive do not allow staff to be bare below the elbow and wearing tinsel is not really a great IP&C idea. Managers need therefore to find a happy medium between fulfilling their obligation to “assess and manage the risk of infection”, and allowing staff some latitude - perhaps restricting jumper wearing to when personal care is not being delivered.


In their miscellaneous guidance on IP&C, NHS Borders, remind staff that decorations should be placed so that effective cleaning can still take place and that decorations should not be in areas where clinical procedures, e.g. wound dressings, take place.


Of course, being indoors with heating on and windows closed can, as we know all too well, mean that winter viruses, flu and COVID included, will spread. Staff should be reminded that ventilation is a key weapon against airborne infections, while staying away from work when symptomatic is quite the opposite of letting the team down! Hand hygiene and the correct use of PPE remain as important at Christmas as they are the rest of the year because winter bugs are no respecters of festive holidays.


Health and Safety


There are a number of fire risks associated with Christmas which home care and care home managers should be alert to. In Care home situations this may require the Manager to undertake a risk assessment to include decorations, the Christmas tree and the additional use of lights.


The main fire risks associated with Christmas according to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, include:


• Blocking escape routes with Christmas trees and decorations.

• Having paper decorations near to a heat source.

• Having a dried-out Christmas tree (they recommend watering the tree, with the lights unplugged of course!).

• Overloading sockets.

• Using lights and other electrical decorations which are not PAT tested.

• Using old fashioned (non-LED) lights because these tend to get hot.


All of these issues apply equally in the care home and the community, so managers should share these insights with staff who may in turn share them with Service Users. Statistics suggest that there are numerous accidents associated with Christmas decorations including deaths from fire and electrocution, so such advice is important to avert any Christmas disasters.

Food


Of course, Christmas is not Christmas without a surfeit of food. Whether food is being cooked in the Service Users home or the care home setting, it is important that it is cooked properly and thoroughly. Each year a number of people are made ill by turkey which has not been thoroughly defrosted and is undercooked as well as by buffets which are left out uncovered and un-chilled for too long.

While the Christmas dinner especially should be a time of sharing and celebration, the usual food hygiene rules apply as does the need for ensuring people are served food of a consistency they can eat and swallow.


Summary


Christmas and the whole holiday season should be filled with happiness and good cheer for Service Users and staff alike. It is however not the time to be complacent or to let our guard down.


Managers have a duty to keep both Service Users and staff safe throughout the whole year, so it is perhaps wise to remind people of the dangers associated with Christmas so that it can be a happy and safe occasion.


At Bettal we wish all of our customers and clients a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2024.


Bettal has a well tried and tested suite of policies, procedures and risk assessments which are available to social care providers all year round. Our quality compliance management documentation is there to take the stress and strain out of being a Registered Manager, so why not treat yourself this Christmas and look forward to a happy New Year using our sector leading products.


If you would like to know more, browse our website, or get in touch:


Telephone: 01697741411

Peter Ellis MA MSc BSc(Hons) RN Consultant

Bettal Quality Consultancy

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