Voices from the frontline
Some of us you know well, some of us you see regularly, some of us you never see. We are the nurses, team leaders, care assistants, chefs, activity coordinators, receptionists, laundry assistants, cooks, cleaners, admins, those behind the scenes, the voices of the frontlines. These are our day to day and our extraordinary experiences.
My name is Teresa Taylor. I am 51 years old, married with two grown-up children and five grandchildren who are aged between 8 months and 10 years old. I have always lived in Shropshire; I am a bit of a homebody, and I am the Facilities Manager for the Towerview Care Group.
I started my career as a chef and almost fell into facilities/estate management by accident. I suppose because I really enjoyed the compliance part of catering. I taught food safety, hygiene, leadership, and management while working as a chef, and I was approached by a company and offered a role in estate management. I really enjoyed a challenge and wanted to stretch myself and spread my wings, so went for it!
I suppose I am quite driven; I enjoy lots of aspects of my work, but I think communication is one of the main elements that I relish. It enables me to work with everyone within an organisation, allowing me to gain real insights, not only into the workings of a company and its ethos. But also, to the people that make that business tick.
So, it is three weeks till the pandemic hits the UK and I have just joined Towerview Care, I am acquainting myself with all the homes, managers, plans etc. I am doing what I usually do when I start a new job, working out what needs doing first, introducing myself to teams and learning the ropes. I start my plates spinning, that is what you do when you manage facilities across multiple sites you spin plates. You set up databases that need to be kept up to date, inspection logs, assessments, checklists, etc. some places already have them some don’t. You have to make sure every single thing and site is compliant at all times. So, all the time, all your plates are spinning, and no plate can every stop because a plate that stops could fall!
As you can imagine, three weeks in I am still very much in the learning phase about the company. When the news comes through that Covid 19 has hit the UK, and we are heading for a lockdown. As the facilities manager part of my role is to source supplies, bespoke products for our ladies and gentlemen, homes, and staff. It now becomes apparent that a large part of my job is going to be sourcing Personal Protective Equipment. Or as the entire nation will very soon know it as PPE.
At this point, I start contacting all our suppliers to find out, of course, everyone is doing the same, and they are all saying they are out of supplies. We started to order from the internet, some of these companies do not have any supplies. Other take orders but take weeks and weeks to deliver. Some companies seriously hike their prices in those early days, one company who had been charging 18 pence per mask started charging £4.50 per mask.
The issue was that the government has instructed the four big PPE manufactures to deliver to the NHS first and four main suppliers, and there is no infrastructure to deliver it. Once things start have calmed down, local government and our own suppliers both step in and the chains of supplies begin to move again. From around about weeks four or five things have been running smoothly. I think the fear of the virus, the pressure and the media reporting of the situation coloured the public’s perception of private companies like ours. They were told we were being given the NHS’s stock of PPE for free, which was not right and made things harder for our staff and us.
Covid 19 has changed the way we work, how we report, in fact, it has changed a lot of the things that I do to make sure that we as a company are compliant. Things may take a while to return to normal, or this may become the new normal. However, I still have to make sure that we have a 5-year electrical inspection, that we are up to date with our legionella risk assessment. That our fire registrations are up to date and that we are working to improve our CQC inspection recommendations.
We need to continue to provide our ladies and gentlemen with a well-balanced diet, clean, safe and homely places to live. Life has had to go on, refurbishment and building works have been put on hold but, I have still been working closely with property colleagues on plans.
During the lockdown, I have continued to work at most of our homes, and I have been part of the team looking at how we work with Covid-19. This has given me a great deal of confidence in working in these environments with a pandemic that effects out residents that none of us has experienced before. It has been a very steep learning curve to say the least, but I have learnt a great deal about the company and the Towerview care family.
We have followed the science and been very strict at following the guidelines issued by the government. Every team from housekeeping to nursing has followed the guidelines because our priority is the safety and wellbeing of our ladies, gentlemen, and our staff teams. Once everyone was over their initial fear, working within the guidelines was relatively easy because it was logical. Once people had built up their confidence, and they knew what they were doing, was working it all started to come together well. I am incredibly proud of the Towerview Care team; and feel very privileged to be part of these teams, they have done fantastic work under unbelievable pressure.