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LESS COVID: innovative research project launches its findings today

The National Care Forum (NCF), the leading representative organisation for not-for-profit social care providers, and the University of Leeds are today launching the findings from research into the experiences of frontline care home and NHS staff caring for older people with COVID-19 in the first few months of the pandemic.  The report – LESS COVID:  Learning by Experience and Supporting the Care Home Sector during the COVID-19 pandemic – provides an account of key lessons learnt, so far, by frontline care home and NHS staff.

Funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, this project worked directly with frontline care home staff and frontline NHS staff to capture the lessons they have learnt about the symptoms, progression and management of COVID-19 in older people (aged over 65 years) in England.

The research initiated by the NCF presents helpful strategies to manage the care and support of older people in care homes during subsequent waves of COVID-19 outbreaks. The NCF who were very keen to learn as quickly as possible from the early days of the pandemic and to share this learning to support the sector.

Liz Jones, Policy Director at the National Care Forum says:

”This research is essential reading for all those involved in providing care for older people in this new world of COVID-19. It highlights the lessons learnt from the frontline of care at the height of the pandemic and offers some valuable insights and recommendations to help us respond effectively to future waves of COVID-19.”

“The willingness of our colleagues to share their reflections while under considerable pressure of the first wave demonstrates the strong and responsible leadership in the care sector.”

“This research was inspired by the daily conversations with our NCF members who were very eager to share their rapidly emerging learning and expertise in responding to COVID-19 in care homes. It is not simply theory but real-life experience of staff on the frontline, both in care homes and the NHS. It looks in detail at the clinical presentation and illness trajectory of COVID-19 in older people, what had worked well, or what more was needed, for providing the best care and treatment and lessons learnt for supporting older people in care homes. The practical ideas and actions suggested will help us to find better ways to manage the virus to inform our future response in subsequent waves.”

“We hope that this research will be of value to both care homes that have already experienced COVID-19 and those that have not yet experienced an outbreak of the virus.”

The findings of the report also highlight systemic issues associated with underfunding, limited integration across health and social care and a lack of wider recognition and value of the contribution of the care home sector and (importantly) its staff. This pandemic should prompt government and society to address these long-standing issues.

Jones continues:

“Many of the suggestions in this research involve actions that can be grasped by the sector; however, there are levers and actions needed that are beyond the control of the sector and need support and action from government. These include resolving the ongoing testing and PPE supply uncertainties; working in genuine partnership with the sector and putting the individual needs of older people at the heart of policymaking.”

Karen Spilsbury, Professor of Nursing at the University of Leeds and Academic Director of NICHE-Leeds says:

“This work represents an important partnership between researchers at the University of Leeds and the National Care Forum (NCF), working with care home colleagues.”

“Our research team has a large portfolio of work with care homes which includes NICHE-Leeds, a partnership between care organisations and academia. Our team were well positioned to undertake this work because they understand the care home context, value and respect those working in the sector and have experience of partnership working to address need and to co-create work with the sector to promote relevance, engagement and implementation.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for research with and for the care home sector. This partnership with NCF enabled us to respond quickly to the concerns of their members and to generate findings with practical relevance.”

“Staff working in care homes have such an important role caring for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. It has been our privilege to work with sector colleagues.”

Susan Kay, Director of the Dunhill Medical Trust says:

“We’ve all been impacted by the COVID crisis – but older adults have been most severely affected.  Capturing lessons learnt about the symptoms, progression and management of this viral infection in the older population and sharing these with care homes that have not yet experienced an outbreak of the virus is crucial.  We have been pleased to be able to support this work and hope that its recommendations can really make a difference.”

As winter approaches and the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 is very likely, health and care colleagues are strongly encouraged to familiarise themselves with the content and recommendations in the report.

Access the full research here:

Access a summary here:


Note to Editors:

  • The National Care Forum brings together 120 of the UK’s leading social care charities, representing large numbers of care providers, offering thousands of services across the country, which are not for profit and always at the heart of community provision. Collectively, these charities deliver more than £1.9 billion of social care support to more than 135,000 people in 6500 settings. The NCF membership body collectively employs more than 85,000 colleagues.
  • More information is available on the National Care Forum at @NCFCareForum @vicrayner @NCF_Liz
  • For enquiries, please contact Edna Petzen (
  • The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 38,000 students from more than 150 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University plays a significant role in the Turing, Rosalind Franklin and Royce Institutes. We are a top ten university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and are in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings 2021. The University was awarded a Gold rating by the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework in 2017, recognising its ‘consistently outstanding’ teaching and learning provision. Twenty-six of our academics have been awarded National Teaching Fellowships – more than any other institution in England, Northern Ireland and Wales – reflecting the excellence of our teaching.   Follow University of Leeds or tag us in to coverage: TwitterFacebookLinkedInInstagram.
  • NICHE-Leeds (Nurturing Innovation in Care Home Excellence in Leeds) is a partnership between Leeds Care Association care home organisations and the University of Leeds, working with Leeds City Council. The aim of this partnership is to undertake research that address questions that matter most to those living and working in care homes and that will promote quality of life, quality of care and quality of work. More information is available at @SpillersK @Leeds_Niche

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