At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic around four hundred thousand people lived in some form of care home. In some homes up to 8 out of every 10 residents have been infected with COVID-19 and up to half of these people have died. Family visiting has largely stopped, to try and make the risks of infection smaller. Many residents – especially with dementia – suffered as a result. As restrictions begin to be relaxed, homes and families are keen to find ways to start safe visits again. It is important that care homes know who has the virus but also who they have come into contact with so they can use infection control methods to slow its spread and reduce the chances of residents, staff and wider community members dying too soon.
The NHS uses a system called “Test and Trace” and people call “contact tracers” to interview people that have tested positive for or come into contact with COVID-19. For people living and working in care homes this way of contact tracing may not work very well. Many people that live in care homes have memory and communication difficulties. Care home staff sometimes have more than fifty contacts with residents and other staff each day. Remembering the details of contacts, even from the same day, can be difficult and so the information provided to NHS Test and Trace cannot be relied upon and the system will not work properly.
We want to use small wearable devices, like a fitbit/digital watch or small broach, to record contacts between staff, residents and visitors in homes more reliably and without people having to do anything other than wear the device.
We will conduct a feasibility study to assess the acceptability and feasibility of intervention delivery process, and trial design / implementation. We are grateful for the support of our collaborating care homes providers, Springfield Health and Westward Care, who will help us ensure our research is acceptable and feasible to care homes.
We will then look to 64 care homes to take part in a cluster randomised controlled trial. Half will be randomised to implement contact tracing technology and the other half will continue with usual care. Contacts data will be collected and summarise so homes can see how patterns and trends of contacts are changing. We will measure how many residents test positive for COVID-19, how many die and how much money and time is involved in homes using the CONTACT devices. We want to understand how best to encourage homes to use the CONTACT technology and to understand why and if it works as it should, so we will look at the things about the care homes, the staff and the technology that make using the devices and equipment easier or more difficult.
CONTACT will mean that care homes will be able to play their part in reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection to/from the communities in which they are located, including how they work with hospitals to reduce risks to residents and staff, deal with residents, staff or visitors testing positive for COVID-19 more effectively and how they can safely manage visiting to increase the quality of life for residents families and staff through more and safer social contact.
If you are a Care Home Manager and would like to know more about getting involved in the main trial, please contact the trial team here
This website is under development, and will be updated as on a regular basis. Please do come back for updates.
This study is independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (Crossprogramme, NIHR132197 – CONtact TrAcing in Care homes using digital Technology (CONTACT) – A pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial, cost-effectiveness evaluation and theory informed process evaluation). The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.