Learning lessons from the pandemic could help protect care home residents from future infection outbreaks, a University of Dundee expert has said.
Dr Charis Marwick, an expert in infectious diseases at the University’s School of Medicine, says that understanding how different care homes and their residents have been affected by Covid-19 could save lives as the world adapts to living with the virus.
Dr Marwick has been awarded £32,000 to fund a new study that will examine how specific characteristics of care homes and their residents have influenced the infection rate and death toll since the start of the pandemic. The project will also examine how hospital admissions and discharges for care home residents altered as the testing policy changed.
The funding has been awarded by the University’s own Coronavirus Research Fundraising Campaign, which has awarded grants to projects dedicated to improving our understanding of Covid-19.
“Care homes and their residents have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, with devastating consequences,” said Dr Marwick.
“It is therefore critical that we identify where improvements could be made to help protect vulnerable care home residents as we learn to live with this illness in the years ahead.
“This study will analyse a wealth of data, examining the relationship between residents, care homes and changes in care throughout the pandemic. By the end we hope the findings will identify risks to care home residents that could be mitigated to protect these people, who are among those most susceptible to this deadly virus.”
Scottish care homes were advised to close doors to visitors at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. However, several significant outbreaks have occurred, with the virus believed to have claimed hundreds of residents’ lives.
While almost every care home resident in Scotland has since been vaccinated and infection rates are dropping dramatically, no vaccine is 100% effective and establishing how to protect those still at risk remains imperative.
Dr Marwick’s study will attempt to identify which care home residents were most adversely affected by the pandemic, and those most likely to contract the disease. The study will also consider the design of care homes, identifying types of premises that are more susceptible to outbreaks to guide service redesign.
The project will also compare changes in healthcare use between those homes affected by Covid-19 and those fortunate enough not to experience outbreaks, to determine whether alterations in service were a direct consequence of the pandemic or an indirect consequence due to changes in wider healthcare provision during lockdown. The findings will be made available to local health authorities, allowing them to be translated into practice.
The University of Dundee Coronavirus Research Fundraising Campaign was launched to assist the scientific community with research that allows us to better understand Covid-19, and future coronaviruses.
Donations from the public, whatever the size, allow our scientists to be nimble by having the funds to follow emerging concepts and ideas quickly. This could help to ensure that we never have to endure the painful separation from loved ones and sacrifice of our day-to-day lives again as we have seen in the current pandemic.
Anyone who wishes to make a donation and support coronavirus research at the University of Dundee can do so here.