Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

11 September 2020 News

Updated 11th September - a letter from Hayden Knight, Orchard Care Homes CEO


Dear Sir/Madam,

Allow me to start this update by saying thank you – for continuing to play your part in keeping our residents and colleagues safe as we traverse the ever-changing landscape that coronavirus presents to us. When the opportunity arose for us to allow visitors into our homes in a safe and controlled way we were pleased to be able to do so. Where possible we will continue to welcome visitors and by adhering to our processes you make that all the more likely.

The external factors that I have spoken about previously continue to play a key part in our decision making and how we react in order to protect residents and colleagues. We have seen over the weekend of 5/6th September that Leeds and Sunderland areas in particular have been reported by Public Health England to have had a sharp increase in the number of positive cases confirmed. Leeds is now on Public Health England’s watchlist having continued its recent upward trend and gone from 27.5 cases per 100,000 people to 41.6 in the space of a week, which represents 330 new cases – the city’s highest rate since mid-May. Likewise, on the same weekend, Public Health England confirmed that Sunderland saw 83 confirmed new cases in the space of just two days, in part due to a widely-reported charity event held on 30th August and this week the local Directors of Public Health have recommended suspending visits to Sunderland and Stockton-on-Tees care homes.

As a result, we are taking the proactive protective step to temporarily suspend visits to our care homes in Leeds, Sunderland and Stockton-on-Tees. I know this will come as a disappointment to those of you affected, but we must stay as far ahead of any approaching threat to the wellbeing of our care homes as we possibly can.

To give some added context around why we have taken this step before a local lockdown has been introduced, I will use our experience of the testing process as an example. The government guidance states that staff should be tested weekly. Assuming that sufficient test kits have been available we have been adhering to this schedule. However, there have been numerous instances whereby there has been a delay in us receiving the test results – sometimes to the extent where staff are being tested again before we have received results from the previous round of testing. We have also seen over the recent bank holiday that, due to test labs not being open, results have come back as unclear or, because of the delay, void and so the tests need to be retaken. It’s important that we use inside knowledge such as this to our advantage when making any decisions, and that is exactly what we have done here. While we still believe tests are only as good as the day they are done, the extra delay around receiving results coupled with heightened local risk places residents and colleagues in a more vulnerable position than usual and so we must take action to protect them.

We continue to work closely with our colleagues to ensure that everyone maintains vigilance around the responsibility they have in keeping residents safe. Every single one of us knows how important it is to adhere to the guidelines around hand washing, PPE and social distancing, whether in the workplace or on our own time. The importance of this remains unchanged from when it was first introduced in March. By doing so, we hope to positively influence the infection rates in our local areas so that visits can take place for as long as possible.

Last week was Professional Carers Week and it was my privilege to be able to speak to all of our colleagues and praise them for the truly herculean efforts and dedication that they have shown in keeping our residents as protected as possible over the past six months. The continued co-operation of all of us is imperative if we are to protect our residents from coronavirus.

If you have any questions about this, please email and one of the team will get back to you as soon as possible.


Useful websites


Q1: How can I use technology to speak to my loved one?

Our homes are now using both Skype and Messenger to ensure residents are able to keep in touch with loved ones, please contact the relevant home to find out what options they have availableOur Facebook pages are also a great way to see what activities our homes are running and for keeping up-to-date on everything your loved ones are doing

Q2: How are you preventing people who may have the virus from entering the homes?

We have tightened our admissions policy and process during this time to require that all potential residents complete a health screening process to mitigate against anybody bringing the virus into the home. Furthermore, newly admitted residents immediately undergo a period of self isolation in their room for the government guided duration at that time to allow for the incubation period to pass and any symptoms to appear before the new resident is allowed into the wider care home setting.

Q3: How are you ensuring you have enough staff to care for the residents?

The work of all our staff is critical to the coronavirus response and therefore all of our colleagues are granted the Key Worker status. This ensures that we can maintain our staffing levels, as those with children are prioritised for education provision. Our recruitment campaigns have been live for a number of weeks and we are successfully fast-tracking new appointments through the Adult First DBS process where required to make sure that we can maintain the wellbeing and safety of our residents in the event of any member of staff needing to self-isolate.

Q4: How are you managing your suppliers to ensure you have adequate amounts of all essential items, such as PPE, medicine and food and drink?

We are working closely with all of our suppliers daily to maintain our levels of all essential items and, where required, are quickly establishing relationships with new suppliers that can support our needs during this time. As covered in the media some PPE items are in short supply however at this moment, whilst stocks are restricted, we are not experiencing significant shortages.

I do hope that this answers some of your immediate questions and concerns and that you are reassured by the steps we are taking to protect the wellbeing of our residents and staff.

I fully appreciate that you may feel frustrated that you are unable to support your loved ones while visitor restrictions are in place. One way that you can help our staff continue to deliver the best possible care for our residents is to nominate one family member to contact the home for updates, rather than several members of the family doing so. This will reduce the pressure that staff are currently under and make more of their time available to care for our residents.


We have dedicated Activities Co-ordinators in our homes and all staff are going above and beyond to ensure our residents continue to enjoy themselves and take part in engaging activities. Our activities packs are full of fun games and activities for both in the home or in the garden to keep everyone laughing, smiling and healthy.

Staffing and recruitment

With many people all around the country finding their work situation changing, we're delighted to be able to offer long-term and short-term opportunities to join us. You don't even need any prior care home experience, just a passion to make a difference to the lives of the older people in your community - we'll provide the rest! Find out more about the roles available and how to apply here:

If you have any questions about our plans to manage coronavirus, you can email us

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