While every team across Derby City Council has played its part in supporting Derby throughout the pandemic, one very much at the forefront of the effort is our carers.

Sue Bliss
Sue Bliss

This week is Carers Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring in both paid and unpaid roles. As part of this, we spoke to Sue Bliss, Service Team Manager for Home First.

The Council’s Home First is a 24/7 rapid response service for Derby’s residents who are either being discharged from hospital or may need to go to hospital and do not have existing care arrangements.

The service, of 190 colleagues, operates as an integrated assessment hub in partnership with Derbyshire Community Health Services (DCHS).

It has 24 beds at Perth House ,10 beds at Arboretum House and a community ‘at home’ care assessment service.

As soon as COVID-19 became a more prominent problem in Derby and England as a whole, the Home First team, along with their colleagues across the Council and external partners, found themselves at the frontline of the crisis:

“Business as usual went out the window. Each day has been and continues to be extremely unpredictable, the situation has tested all the best contingency planning and measures to the absolute maximum,” said Sue.

“Situations have arisen that no one would have ever thought of – the job role has been very much turned from one of forward planning and performance to daily ‘firefighting’ and needing to draw on all my knowledge, skills and expertise gained over the past 30 years, and that of my colleagues.”

One of the biggest problems that Sue and her team have faced was that of capacity, both from a staffing perspective and the amount of beds on offer:

“We have had patches where we have had a high number of staff off with COVID-19 related symptoms, which was challenging enough, but we also had to try our best to increase the capacity available for customers to ensure that we were freeing up hospital beds wherever we could,” added Sue.

“We have had to constantly reshuffle the way that we work to ensure we’re maximising our time and space, all the while working closely with our partners across Hospital to Home and the hospitals.”

The pressure of being frontline workers, particular with a greater need for capacity, means that Sue has had to make sure that colleague wellbeing is prioritised:

“There have been some difficulties with anxiety – the support team are working with individuals who have tested positive with COVID-19, which can be very daunting for them. From a manager’s perspective, ensuring that they feel reassured and that morale is boosted is more important now than ever.

“We have all needed to make sure that we are also not running ourselves into the ground. Whether it’s our teams on the frontline, or those working from home, being a 24/7 service means there is a risk that we never switch off and become burnt out.”

Although it has not been easy, Sue is incredibly proud of the work that the team has done:

“The team have done absolutely tremendous work in giving a good service to the customers of Derby. There are a lot of individuals who would need to stay in hospital a lot longer without our support which, as well as leaving them vulnerable, means there are fewer beds available in the hospital.

“It has also been a wonderful example of health and social care services working in partnership. We work very closely with the integrated hub at the hospital, which includes the Council’s Hospital to Home team, and it has allowed us to look after the people of Derby as well as we possibly can.

“Irrespective of what has been happening in the background, I’ve been extremely proud of how we have continued on and provided support to Derby residents.”