Project IIRP08COV

Understanding the lived experience of infection transmission in care homes

UCAIRE explored how residents in older people’s care homes, their family/friends and care-home staff experienced coping with preventing the spread and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes COVID-19). Findings will inform the development of guidelines and support in managing future outbreaks of infectious diseases in care homes & in providing support to all those involved in care homes. 


Usual safety measures in care homes for older people have not fully controlled the spread of the highly infectious virus that causes COVID-19, so care homes added more safety measures.  These included restricting visitors and changing how care is given.  But we do not know how residents, families/ friends of residents and staff have coped with measures to prevent the virus spreading and if these met their needs.

Our study started with an online survey open to staff in any job role.  It asked about working during COVID-19 and challenges to how staff coped trying to prevent the spread of infection.  Survey results showed us the different ways staff managed infection risk in care homes and how they felt about that.  Next we interviewed residents, family/friends and staff to learn how they experienced coping with COVID-19.  We asked them for details of how infection-control worked for them in daily life.  Their views helped us understand the impact on them of the steps taken to limit the spread of infection.  Interviews for staff and family/friends were online or on the telephone to remove infection risk.  Research Nurses recruited residents and arranged interviews if UCAIRE researchers could not enter care homes because of lockdown restrictions.

We analysed information from the surveys and interviews, combined the results and wrote a report on what we have learned.  We shared findings with organisations in social care and used social media to raise awareness of the outcomes.  We aimed for UCAIRE to add to findings on the best and most relevant steps and support that help residents, families and staff to cope with measures that control the spread of infectious diseases.  UCAIRE also found out how responses to infection-control measures could support the actual needs of those who live, visit and work in care homes.

Project aims

UCAIRE used two methods – an online survey; qualitative interviews – it achieved three main objectives:

  1. Carried out an online survey of staff who work in any job role in a care home.  The online survey found out staff’s general views and specific concerns on the spread of COVID-19 within care homes for older people.
  2. Held qualitative interviews with care-home residents, family/friends of residents and care-home staff.  Interviews gave us detailed information on how individuals experienced infection-control measures and reducing the risk of infection during the pandemic.
  3. Combined the findings from the online survey with those from the interviews to gain full understandings of the experience of infection-control and risk and the needs of those living and working in care homes.  The results were used to develop guidelines tailored for specific users:  care-home residents; family/friends of residents; care-home staff.

Who was involved?

Principle Investigator

Dr Kathleen Lane, University of East Anglia 

Researchers and institutions

  • Dr Julii Brainard, University of East Anglia 
  • Dr Diane Bunn, University of East Anglia 
  • Ms Julie Houghton, Carer/Patient Public Involvement 
  • Dr Anne Killett, University of East Anglia 
  • Professor Sarah O’Brien, University of Newcastle
  • Ms Suzanne Mumford, Care UK
  • Ms Laura Watts, University of East Anglia 

Contact us

Dr Kathleen Lane,