People in Swansea are being urged to play their part in helping to keep health and social care from being overwhelmed.
Swansea has one of the highest rates of coronavirus in the UK which has led to hundreds of health and social care staff being off work placing services under far more pressure than they were during the first wave of the pandemic.
Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Community Health Services, Clive Lloyd, and Director of Social Services, David Howes, have urged people to observe social distancing and avoid unnecessary mixing with others in the run up to and during Christmas to help vital frontline social care get through the winter.
They told a joint meeting of the council’s social services scrutiny committee that it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain safe staffing levels at care homes and domiciliary care was also a major concern.
They set-out a picture of highly-committed, motivated and professional teams dealing with a virus that is having a much greater impact on staffing in the second wave of infections.
They said there are huge pressures on the workforce due to staff testing positive for coronavirus, others having to self-isolate and the usual seasonal illnesses.
Mr Howes told the meeting that all services were under severe pressure but care homes were a particular concern with a worst case scenario of one or more having to close due to unsafe staffing levels.
The council is looking at a number of options including the possibility of a rapid-response team that could be deployed to care homes where staffing levels are in danger of becoming so low they are no longer safe to remain open.
Councillor Lloyd made it clear it was not only a social care issue but that a council-wide response was required.
He said: “Not only frontline have staff have been impacted but also support staff and that is why we are looking for volunteers to step-up from across the council to help.”
People in the third sector with the necessary skills and experience have also been asked to come forward and there is ongoing extensive recruited outside the council.
This comes on top of providing additional resources to external providers both in terms of staff and funding.
Mr Howes said: “Our workforce has made extraordinary efforts this year – they are exhausted – and they continue to do extraordinary work.”
But he added: “It is proving significantly more difficult second time round despite the fact we implemented many new approaches from what we learned during the first wave.
“In adult social services demand is higher, the needs of individuals are more complex and staffing is much more stretched.
“We did a lot of work in the summer to prepare for a second wave and to be really clear that if push comes to shove, like the position we are in now, what are the absolutely crucial things that we need to deliver.
“We are absolutely at the point of concentrating on keeping people safe and keeping people alive.”
A mass vaccination site is due to open in the region next week and initially this will see health and social care staff offered the vaccine.
It will be extended to residents in care homes in Swansea Bay either later this month or at the start of January.
Cllr Lloyd said: “I would like thank the teams and the people who work day to day within social care for maintaining services that are in a really, really, difficult place.
“This current situation exceeds all the modelling that we could plan for but we have a resilient and fast thinking workforce.
“I’m absolutely blown away that even in this adverse situation with care homes, domiciliary care and all support services, even though staff are exhausted, they are coming up with solutions to the challenges and responding in the way we have become accustomed to.”
(Lead image: Matthias Zomer / Pexels.com)