In the two years the country’s care homes have been dealing with the COVID pandemic, one set of key workers have proved invaluable – and yet too often overlooked.

Balhousie Care Group’s teams of domestics have been crucial in preventing the spread of infection in homes. And as infection prevention and control (IPC) requirements mounted because of the virus, so their workload intensified.

Along with increased scrutiny from public health officials and the Care Inspectorate have come changes to the way domestics clean, from the products they are allowed to use to the paperwork they must fill in to record their cleaning progress. Extra measures during the pandemic have included more frequent deep cleans and the introduction of fogging machines for extra disinfecting. On top of that, the guidelines themselves have changed several times.

Domestics like Claire McMurdo, Jacqui Anderson, Jess White, Wendy Forbes and Louise Taylor – who make up the domestics team at Balhousie Forth View in Methil, Fife – have had to pivot to adapt.

Jacqui says: “The paperwork is a lot as you have to record each part of the room, corridor and communal area you have cleaned every time you do it.”

Extra demands on their schedules are not an issue for the Forth View team of domestics. This group is tight. Says Jess: “We have got each other’s backs. If we ever need help covering shifts, or personally too, we know we can turn to each other.”

Jacqui, who has worked at Balhousie Forth View for 10 years, adds: “It’s because of the team we’ve got that it works so well. We stick together.”

So much so that, as well as being work colleagues, they are each other’s wellbeing supporters too. When any of them feels overwhelmed, anxious or annoyed, they turn to each other. “It’s about talking. We’ll just pick up the phone to each other and have a rant!” says Jess.

Says Wendy, who joined the care home seven years ago: “I work with a great team. We are always prepared to go that extra mile when needed.”

The Forth View domestics are so highly regarded across Balhousie Care Group that the company’s clinical team uses Forth View to trial changes in policies and procedures.

Balhousie Care Group calls its staff Everyday Heroes, and Ingrid Pitt, Home Manager at Balhousie Forth View, says it couldn’t be a more fitting description of her domestics team: “When people think of care homes they think of care roles. Of course care is at the heart of everything we do but the importance of domestics these last two years during the Coronavirus pandemic can’t be stressed enough. I think it’s high time they were celebrated.”

The whole Forth View cleaning team has benefited from the flexibility of both domestic shifts and Balhousie Care Group management as they fit their work around family commitments.

Jacqui, who lives in Methil, began at Balhousie Forth View as a carer before moving into a domestic role. She started on an 8.30am to 2.30am. Now that her children are older, she does a 6am to 1.30am shift. “Balhousie has been fantastic with me with my work hours,” she says.

Claire joined the team seven years ago from hairdressing and soon found that doing several shorter shifts as a domestic, rather than fewer but longer shifts as a carer, suited her family life.

Jess joined Balhousie Forth View in 2014 from a job in catering. Again, the shifts – 7.30am to 2pm – were family-friendly. Now she works from 6am to 1.30pm.

Louise, who has been part of the team for three years, works 9am to 3.30pm four days a week, giving her, she says, “a healthy work/personal life balance”.

Balhousie Forth View care home in Methil.

Cases of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 have caused staffing pressures for care homes. This team is proud to step up to help.

“When I first started as a domestic I thought all the cleaning would be our responsibility but carers are required to do certain cleaning and IPC measures too,” says Jess. “If we are short-staffed though, we help.”

Of the extra work the pandemic has put on everyone at Balhousie Forth View, Jess says simply: “You just put your head down and get on with it. And I always know with my team I’ll get a laugh and a giggle.”

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