Pilot scheme launched to monitor infections in care homes in England

More than 500 care homes in England are taking part in a pilot programme to monitor and help reduce infection spread, aiming to build on research done in the pandemic when such settings were severely impacted.

The Vivaldi social care project, commissioned by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) alongside University College London (UCL) and others, aims to gather evidence on the effects of infections across healthcare and community settings.

The pilot aims to monitor infections such as Covid-19 as well as flu, norovirus, and urinary tract infections, and to analyse the data in order to help reduce infections in care homes for older adults, the UKHSA said.

The agency described how the pandemic had exposed a lack of data and surveillance infrastructure which left older adults in care homes vulnerable to infections and outbreaks.

The Vivaldi study, which began in June 2020, collected data from staff and residents in over 300 care homes in England including vaccination records, hospital visits, and death records – something UKHSA said was “crucial” in the pandemic to inform decisions around limiting staff movement between care homes and highlighting the need for sick pay for care home workers.

The latest pilot will improve understanding of infections in care homes and similar environments beyond coronavirus, and help prepare for future health threats, said UKHSA director general of data, analytics and surveillance, Professor Steven Riley.

He said: “The UKHSA’s collaboration with UCL on the Vivaldi study helped us understand the impact Covid-19 had in care homes and fed directly into important policy making decisions, helping to protect those living and working in adult social care settings during the pandemic.

“We are delighted to be able to continue this work through the Vivaldi Social Care pilot which will improve our understanding of infections in care homes and similar environments beyond Covid-19 and will provide valuable data that will contribute to our mission to prepare for, prevent and respond to health threats, protect livelihoods and, most importantly, save lives.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents care providers across the country and is a partner in the pilot, said this latest project “will enable residents, families, care workers, providers, and wider stakeholders to work together and develop our understanding of how to reduce the impact of infections and outbreaks in care homes”.

He added: “Research in our sector is vital to help influence government policy and deliver improved outcomes for people who live in, work in, and visit social care.

“Vivaldi Social Care brings the sector together to improve learning and lays a strong foundation for other studies to shape social care through research going forward.”

The pilot, which has other partners including The Outstanding Society and NHS England, is one of several national surveillance studies which the UKHSA said has been commissioned to gather evidence on the burden of infections across healthcare and community settings.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2023, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Peter Byrne / PA.