Staff at a care home have revealed the fear of dealing with a Covid outbreak at the start of the pandemic.

The team at Berehill House in Whitchurch were named Medical Heroes of the Year at The Gazette’s Hampshire Hero Awards, after judges were blown away by the personal sacrifices they made.

Manager Michelle Hart said: “Being a care worker has always been a very challenging job, but in March 2020 we had no idea of how much more challenging it would become.

“No one really knew too much about Covid-19, when suddenly we were in a situation where one of our residents with no obvious symptoms was rushed to hospital and we were subsequently told a few hours later he was Covid positive.

“Staff were petrified, we cried, we called our families and said we would not be home. At that very moment we did not know how long we would be there but we were committed to doing it.

“Thankfully, clearer support came through and we were able to return to our homes and our own loved ones. But Not one day has gone past where staff have not gone over and above their job description during this pandemic.

“We tried so hard to stay in touch with families. Weekly updates, using our own technology to FaceTime and WhatsApp, we raised nearly £5,000 for a 32” tablet to enable our residents to see their families better on video.

“We never let a resident pass away alone. If we had agency staff on duty, one or more of us would stay to ensure our residents had that familiar face around at their most vulnerable time. Many families thought we were lucky we could still go home or still do the weekly shop. What they didn’t see was that many of us were banned from our own families, one carer lost both parents during the pandemic and still came to work.”

The CQC data reveals that Berehill saw two residents pass away from Covid, whilst next-door Wessex Lodge, also run by Hestia Care, had nine deaths.

A spokesperson for Hestia Care said: “We are deeply saddened to some residents have lost their lives to Covid-19. Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends, and we have been supporting everyone affected as much as we can.

"Throughout the pandemic, from central office personnel to staff interacting directly with residents and their families, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that policies and procedures are in place, all staff are kept aware of what to do, and the situation is monitored daily to keep everyone safe.

"Before the first lockdown commenced, Hestia Care’s dedicated Covid-19 team supported the home escalating any actions where necessary to ensure that each home could provide optimum safe care.

"The senior management team had developed enhanced infection controls plans, including observations and monitoring systems, and support the home team to embed these within their operations with immediate effect.

"We continue to have excellent supplies of PPE for all staff, and follow strict infection control measures and protocols to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

"Our staff, who have been profoundly affected by this epidemic, continue to do everything they can to care for and protect for our residents, and keep in regular contact with their families.

"We are extremely grateful to the local community for their support, and to our staff for their dedication and commitment during this difficult time.”