Experiences in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the pandemic, care homes were on the frontline in the fight to protect people from catching the virus. Our latest report tells the stories of care home residents, their family and friends and staff.
Front page of experiences in care homes during covid-19 report


Before the pandemic, Healthwatch Sutton had just started a series of visits to care homes for older people in the Borough. We had carried out a pilot visit in late 2019 and published a report using feedback from residents, their friends and family and staff. It was intended that a further 10 care homes would be carried out in the following months. 

The COVID-19 outbreak put an immediate end to these plans but we continued to receive feedback from some residents concerning issues that they had experienced e.g. some families finding it difficult to visit their loved ones. 

We kept in contact with the Care Home Commissioning Team at Sutton Council. We agreed that it would be helpful for Commissioners, care home management and staff, the NHS and other organisations (including the voluntary and community sector) to capture the experiences of residents, their family and friends and staff during the pandemic. 

Sutton Council agreed to commission Healthwatch Sutton to carry out this work and produce a report from the data collected. 

What we did 

We ran 4 different surveys (including an Easy Read version) for care home residents, their friends and family and staff members between 9th March and 25th May 2021. 

We heard from 248 people in total. This includes 74 care home residents, 59 of their friends and family and 115 staff members. 

What we found


1. The vast majority of comments during the pandemic were very positive. 

2. 98% were able to access care if they needed to. 

3. 92% had been given the opportunity to speak to friends and family via phone or video call. 

Residents with learning disabilities

1. All residents felt safe in their home.

2. Around 50% had not been able to see their friends and family.

3. All residents said that they had been happy with their activities. 

Friends and family

1. 97% felt that their family member/friend has been safe. 

2. 97% felt that they were kept informed about changes that affected their family member/friend. 

3. 93% were supplied with PPE and comments stated that some visitors had brought their own. 

4. Comments showed the pandemic has had considerable impact on visits to care homes with examples of garden visits, lack of physical contacts, restrictions on the number of visitors, booking appointments, PPE, etc. 


Staff were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with 10 different statements concerning their experience of working during the pandemic. 

The statements with the greatest agreement were: 

a. I have been able to access COVID-19 tests when I have needed to. 

b. I know where to get support for myself during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

c. When I needed PPE, I was able to access it easily and on time. 

The statements with the least agreement were: 

a. I feel that the available mental health and wellbeing services are supporting my needs effectively. 

b. If I have raised concerns, these have been addressed by my employer. 

c. I have felt safe at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Next steps

Recommendations will be developed using the key findings. They will be created in consultation with key stakeholders including: 

  • Sutton Council Commissioners and staff
  • Relevant local NHS staff
  • Local care home managers and staff
  • Care home residents and their friends and family
  • Relevant voluntary groups 

Thank you

Many thanks to Sutton Council for commissioning this work. 

We would like to thank all the care home staff, residents and their families and friends who have taken the time to complete our survey. Without your support, this report would not have been possible. 

We must also give full credit to Healthwatch Croydon who shared the surveys and methodology that we have used for this work. 

Read the report

If you need these reports in a different format, please get in touch. 

020 8641 9540


Experiences in care homes during COVID-19 report
Easy Read - Experiences in care homes during COVID-19

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