How Covid-19 overwhelmed a care home in Seaford

A former employee has spoken out about ‘the stress and the trauma’ of working in a Seaford care home which was overwhelmed by an outbreak of Covid-19.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 2:26 pm
Thomas Exley worked as a carer at Blatchington Court
Thomas Exley worked as a carer at Blatchington Court

Carer Thomas Exley said the situation at Blatchington Court, in St Peter’s Road, had become ‘really desperate’ by the time it was closed in May 2020.

Thomas started working at the 20-bed care home for people with dementia, run by Seaford Care Ltd, in December 2019.

A few months later, shortly after the pandemic hit, the care home sadly lost two residents due to a virus outbreak – which soon spread to staff members.

Before long, almost all staff were either isolating at home with Covid-19 or in hospital.

Thomas said: “It just got worse and worse.

“It got to the point in the middle of April, we were struggling and struggling through with no staff.

“By the last week, we had five staff working everyday.”

Thomas said he was waking up at 5am to start work at 6am, helping put three meals on the table throughout the day and even staying late to help put residents to bed at 10pm.

“It was really, really desperate,” he said.

Due to the situation, the care home took the ‘difficult decision’ to close at short notice.

Thomas said he cried as the residents were moved to another home. “They didn’t have a clue what was going on,” he said.

Sadly, after the residents were moved to an East Sussex County Council service, nine more tragically passed away.

The care home was permanently closed in May 2020 and Thomas was made redundant.

He said that, months later, he was still coming to terms with the ‘stress and the trauma’ of what had happened at the care home.

“It honestly gave me awful almost PTSD,” he said. “It had such an effect on me.”

Thomas, who is now a care manager at another facility, believes the care home could have responded better to the pandemic.

But the owners of Seaford Care, who also run Seaford Head Retirement Home, said their response had been ‘carefully reviewed’ by the authorities and no concerns had been identified.

They said in a statement: “Along with more than 200 care homes in East Sussex, Blatchington Court had a tragic Covid-19 outbreak where we very sadly lost two of our residents.

“This was early in the pandemic when much less was known about the impact on people living in care homes.

“We worked closely with East Sussex County Council, the Public Health team, the Registered Care Association and our GP surgery, to try and contain and manage the outbreak.

“Despite closely following all of the government guidance on infection control and using the correct PPE at all times, the outbreak quickly overwhelmed our amazing staff team.

“With almost all of our staff isolating at home with Covid and several in hospital, we had to take the most difficult decision to close the care home at short notice.

“Most of the residents moved to an East Sussex County Council service where nine more sadly passed.

“Following the outbreak, the council’s safeguarding team and the CQC carefully reviewed our response to the outbreak and did not identify any concerns.

“Losing residents who we felt were part of our family was extremely difficult.

“We would like again to extend our condolences to the families of our wonderful residents at Blatchington Court, and to all those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.”

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “In May 2020, we worked with the Blatchington Court management team to support the residents living at Blatchington Court to move out of the care home.

“Sadly a number of staff and residents had Covid-19 and, despite the best efforts of the management team, it was not possible for the service to continue.

“After careful consideration of all the issues, the owners of Blatchington Court - which was a family-run business, decided that it was not possible to re-open the home and the home was closed.”