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Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham's Channel 4 Covid-19 drama Help enlisted help of Folkestone care home owner for script


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The manager of a Kent care home which lost 10 residents to Covid-19 helped guide a new drama which focuses on the ways staff struggled during the height of the pandemic.

Starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham, Help aired on Channel 4 last week and is now available to stream on All 4.

Help looks at the way staff at care homes struggled during the onset of the pandemic. Photo shows Tony (Stephen Graham) and Sarah (Jodie Comer) playing cards. Photo: Channel 4
Help looks at the way staff at care homes struggled during the onset of the pandemic. Photo shows Tony (Stephen Graham) and Sarah (Jodie Comer) playing cards. Photo: Channel 4

It follows the story of a Liverpool care home and how staff and residents worked and reacted during the onset of the pandemic.

Roger Waluube, who owns Pelham House Care Home in Folkestone, was called upon by the production team and creators to find out the reality of working in a care home during those early days, when there was limited information and resources were stretched.

In total 10 residents at Pelham died in just a few weeks from Covid last year - half the residents. The home featured on an episode of Panorama last July.

Mr Waluube was asked to advise on the scripting to ensure the fictional drama, which was not based on any individual cases, reflected an accurate picture of what the pandemic meant for care homes across the country.

He said: "I was called by the producers to give my feedback on the scripts, as they wanted to get an honest picture of what happened within a care home during the pandemic.

Care home owner Roger Waluube. Picture: Pelham House
Care home owner Roger Waluube. Picture: Pelham House

"Some parts were obviously dramatic and out of the ordinary, but the story of events was accurate in many parts - with events moving very fast and a huge amount of stress on staff.

"It was a complete crisis with many uncertainties and little sense of direction.

"The main issue was stress on the staff; some of whom found themselves in a position where their jobs were a risk to their families; some stayed, and some chose to go.

"The show depicts the lack of PPE, lack of clear guidance and support from the authorities and a very stretched industry trying to cope with levels of care that was beyond its capability and resources."

The 90-minute drama focuses on the undervaluation of care home workers and the challenges they faced in an unprecedented situation, unable to get the help they needed or the medical information required to care for their residents.

In the drama, more residents are sent to the care home to free up hospital beds. Photo: Channel 4
In the drama, more residents are sent to the care home to free up hospital beds. Photo: Channel 4

It sees the main character Sarah, played by Killing Eve star Comer, starting work in the home just before the pandemic strikes, striking up a friendship with Tony, played by Line of Duty's Graham, who has early onset dementia.

Viewers saw eight residents being dropped off at the home, having been brought from local hospitals - described as ‘bed-blockers’ to make way for the anticipated influx of Covid patients.

Sarah queries their state of health and safety of bringing them into the care home.

It then quickly escalates into lack of PPE, the desperation in getting testing kits, support from the government and NHS, and the Care Quality Commission, the care industry’s regulator.

Sarah is shown to be frantic, overwhelmed and out of her depth on a solo night shift, while residents are upset and disorientated through lack of routine, confused by being kept in their rooms and watching their visitors waving at windows, without understanding why.

Pelham House lost 10 patients during the pandemic
Pelham House lost 10 patients during the pandemic

Mr Waluube has praised the show, saying: "I feel they’ve done well to show a slice of a major pandemic in a 90-minute drama, covering not only the practicalities but also the huge impact on the staff required to get everyone through it safely.

"It also shows the outcomes of Covid-19 which was the undignified death of the people we are here to care and support at a time of need."

At the end of the programme, the following statistics were given:

  • 40% of Covid deaths were in care homes
  • The UK government supplied NHS trusts with 80% of their estimated PPE needs from March 2020 - July 2020. 10% was supplied to the adult social care sector
  • The average wage for a care worker is £8.50 per hour

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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