He has ‘Enormous admiration for the way the Fairfield team has responded to so many unexpected demands’
A few weeks before my appointment as Chairman of Trustees, I met a relative in the Fairfield entrance who was visiting her father; quite spontaneously, she told me how wonderful his care at Fairfield had been. He had spent some weeks in respite care and had now moved back as a permanent resident just a few weeks later; he felt safe and secure and the whole family was delighted that a room had become available. Such stories are typical of Fairfield.
It is now six months since I was appointed to succeed John Cole on Friday 27 March, just a few days after the Government’s lockdown. Since then, life has changed for us all and I can only express enormous admiration for the way the Fairfield team has responded to so many unexpected demands. Sadly, we have had to challenge the government on a number of occasions and Fairfield led the cause of care homes with letters, articles and news items in national press and on television, culminating in Michelle, our Director of Care, being interviewed by Hugh Pym on BBC news at 10 alongside, astonishingly, footage of Fairfield taken on Assistant Manager Shamaila Muzammil’s phone; Shamaila became our Camerawoman of the Year!
Overall, however, I have been overwhelmed by the sense of love, care and commitment shown by the whole Fairfield team during the past difficult months. As Trustees, we now begin each board meeting with a Fairfield Story, to remind us of the reality of life for the community. Over Zoom, we heard from a resident who described the outstanding care she had received during lockdown: “We could not have been better looked after anywhere; we are very, very lucky,” she said.
That great sense of dedication of our team was illustrated at another board meeting when one of the care-team leaders movingly described the impact of Covid on the lives of the Fairfield community and the many tears that had been shed over the weeks; but she also spoke of the pride they had taken in the way the team had supported each other and the residents. “We knew we needed to be there, with them and for them”, she said. It is a great testament to the team that they have developed such a safe and secure atmosphere, despite the turmoil in the rest of the care home sector.
We are very much aware of the frustration and loneliness of isolation but the team have done their very best to keep up the spirits of residents throughout, arranging activities and assisting residents to keep in contact with relatives through Skype and Zoom calls. I was pleased to take part in two zoom meetings with residents and relatives to better understand their needs in as open a way as possible. As soon as we were permitted to do so, we reinstated visiting in accordance with government requirements; more recently residents have been able to take trips once more in the Fairfield minibus, which has come into its own. I am pleased to report, too, that we have welcomed new residents, and enquiries for rooms continue for respite and long-term care.
None of this would have been possible without the wonderful commitment and leadership of Michelle Williams, as Director of Care, and Debbie Hayes, as the Registered Manager. Together with the leadership team, they have developed new protocols to keep residents safe and inspire the team through those most difficult of days. Importantly, we have now extended the leadership team with the appointment of a new Bursar, Fiona Shickle, who joins us from an international charity; Fiona has overall responsibility for the administration, estate, finances and strategic planning for Fairfield, on behalf of the trustees. She brings a wealth of valuable experience to the leadership of Fairfield.
And finally, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary commitment of the Trustees of Fairfield. We are a registered charity and trustees give of their time freely and generously for the good of the community. In my wide experience of the public and voluntary sectors, I have not before met such dedication to the cause of others.
John Guy OBE, November 2020