Kent care home, which lost 50% of residents to COVID, advised on Channel 4 drama to show 'reality of what we faced'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The owner of a care home in Kent, which lost half of its residents to COVID-19, said Channel 4's newly-released drama Help shows "the panic, helplessness, fear and desperation" of care homes during the pandemic.

Starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham, the 98-minute-long programme charts the relationship between care home worker Sarah and Tony, a patient suffering young onset dementia, through the first wave of the pandemic.

Roger Waluube, owner of Pelham House care home in Folkestone, advised writers on the script to help it accurately show "the reality of what we were facing".

He said he was keen to get involved, reading advanced copies of the "powerful drama" and sending back comments based on his own experiences.

Written by BAFTA award-winning writer Jack Thorne, Help achieved a record-breaking 1.1 million streams after just four days - the biggest ever launch of a drama on All4.

The show exposed how care homes were abandoned during the pandemic, something Mr Waluube said was "hard to watch back".

Pelham House lost 10 of its 20 residents to COVID-19, including nine deaths in just 11 days.

"In the care home sector was that feeling of isolation, of abandonment. Of feeling you are left to it, with a real lack of help and support," he said.

"The guidance we were given was confusing and conflicting.

"So you are thrown to the wolves."

The home, which was one of two to feature in Panorama's The Forgotten Frontline, was just 10 days away from closure following the sudden death of so many in its care.

Mr Waluube said the "horrific" number of deaths took an emotional toll on staff: "These are people we know very well, we've got to care for and now we are watching them die quite suddenly, and quite painfully as well."

A number of staff who worked with him during the pandemic have now left the industry, he said.

Mr Waluube continued: "It is a drama, but they covered so much ground and touched so many bases and showed the tension that we are inheriting in health and social care.

"When you group health and social care together, there is only ever going to be one loser in that."

During the first wave, within the space of two days, 18 residents and five staff tested positive for the virus.

He said he resorted to ringing up members of staff who hadn't worked at the home for decades, "just to get an extra pair of hands".

He continued: "You saw the sense of panic, the sense of helplessness, the fear and the desperation in the programme - like when Jodie Comer went to get help from another resident in the care home, and she felt so awfully guilty about it.

"But she was by herself and there were no other staff to help her and that's how things were.

"When my family and friends watched Help, they told me 'I didn't realise it was quite like that'.

"But that was the reality of what we were facing, that kind of crisis, with a diminishing number of staff to help us."

He said there has to be a shift in attitudes towards older people "because we've let them down when they needed it".

He added: "I don't think this is all about the government truth be told, I think as a society, we don't place enough prioritisation and focus on the care of the elderly people who live with us and who need care and support.

"We weren't equipped, or skilled, or experienced enough to cope and we watched a lot of people dying in a very undignified way.

"And that is always going to live with us."

Help is available to watch now on All4.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting