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Safely Reuniting Families

Professor Martin Green OBE is an Expert Advisory Council member for P&G Professional and the Chief Executive of Care England.

The 19th of July was widely heralded as ‘Freedom Day’ because not only was society opening up, but there were also significant changes to the way in which care homes welcomed and supported visitors. New guidance that came from the Department of Health and Social Care stated that people could have as many visitors as they wanted and there were also changes to the essential caregiver role.

Whilst the opening up of care homes is to be welcomed from the perspective of delivering greater connectivity between residents, their families and loved ones, we must also remember that even though we have moved into the final stages of the roadmap out of lockdown, we have not eradicated COVID-19. Far from it, this month we have seen increased infections across society, and even the double vaccinated Health Secretary gave a positive Covid test and, of course, this forced both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to self-isolate. These high-profile people testing positive is a wake-up call for everyone and it reminds us that even if society has opened up, the ever-present threat of COVID is still upon us and care homes have to be really vigilant in how they manage a return to a more normal life.

One thing about care homes is that staff are very practised in the issue of infection control. For many years we have dealt with seasonal flu, Norovirus, and a range of other infectious conditions that could harm residents.

COVID-19, because it was a global pandemic and because it affected every part of society, has shone a light into the care home sector, where many of our most vulnerable people live. It has also made people more aware of the importance of infection control and hygiene generally. Suddenly, the cleaning team in care settings, who had often been on the peripheries of people’s consciousness, were put centre stage and seen to be very important participants in maintaining the safety of residents, staff and families.

One outcome of the pandemic is the advances in a range of products and services which have responded to a particular need. It was great to see the arrival of Microban 24 Professional, a new product by P&G Professional, which changes the game in relation to cleaning and infection control. One of the most important elements of this new product is the fact that it can maintain a barrier against bacteria on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours even after multiple touches[1], and can also initially kill viruses[2], such as SARS-CoV-2[3]. The benefits of this unique product to care providers are enormous because it enables a planned and systematic approach to cleaning and infection control. Complemented by other trusted brands in P&G Professional’s portfolio of powerful and effective cleaning products – such as Ariel Professional, Fairy Professional and Flash Professional – this is not only delivering the outcome that the provider requires, but it’s also helping make the most efficient use of the cleaning and support team. Another aspect of this new product is the confidence it gives to relatives and family members who visit care homes. Families are understandably concerned about protecting the people they love and care providers are able to explain the benefits of delivering effective cleaning with Microban 24 Professional. Families also have the confidence that P&G Professional is a recognised and established provider of cleaning products.

One important point to remember, is that even though there has to be a focus on infection control and hygiene, care homes are where people live and it is important that they maintain a degree of familiarity and do not become sterile, clinical environments. This is an area where P&G Professional really excels, because it has a range of products that are familiar to residents and their families, because they have used them when they were living in their own home and they see them now in care settings. This sense of the familiarity is not only around trusted product names such as Ariel Professional, Fairy Professional and Flash Professional, but it is also about the smell of clean environments that people remember from their own homes. This sense of familiarity is really important in settling people into new homes and it is particularly so for people living with dementia. Familiar smells and product packaging create a sense of being at home, and this is a critical part of any care setting. There are a number of these familiar products which have been slightly adapted for a care market but they maintain the identity of the original brands and this is a comfort to residents and families. It is also something that the cleaning teams feel comfortable with and they are able to use these products very effectively, because they understand how they use them in their own homes and can easily adapt to the cleaning regimes in a care setting.

True ‘Freedom Day’ will be when we have freedom from the threat of COVID-19 and when we all can get back to a more normal life. In the meantime, however, there are a range of ways in which care homes are focusing on cleanliness and infection control which will give confidence to residents and families and hopefully start to move us towards a more normal existence, even if we still have to manage the threat of COVID-19.

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[1] When used as directed, Microban 24 Professional is effective for up to 24h against bacteria. Use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.

[2] Tested on enveloped viruses according to EN16777. 5 minutes contact time. Microban 24 does not provide 24-hour residual virus protection.

[3] Kills 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 according to EN14476. 5 minutes contact time. Microban 24 does not provide 24-hour residual virus protection.