Government guidance – released unexpectedly yesterday – to help care homes put in measures to allow residents to receive visits during lockdown has received mixed reaction.
Unlike the first lockdown, the Government has told care homes to allow visits but with precautions, such as floor-to-ceiling screens, visitor pods and window visits.
The updated Government advice, which came into effect today, said care homes ‘will be encouraged and supported to provide safe visiting opportunities’, with measures such as social distancing and personal protective equipment.
The guidance has suggested that visitors and residents could enter through different entrances, meet in Covid-secure pods, and that visitors should not enter the home.
Window visits would mean visitors do not need to come inside the home, while outdoor visits can take place in areas without anyone going through a shared building, it added.
Executive director of the membership organisation the National Care Forum, Vic Rayner, warned that ‘these arrangements, without urgent support, will leave many, literally, out in the cold’.
Homes were provided with ‘less than 12 hours’ notice’ that visits would be allowed, she added.
Ms Rayner called for more detailed guidance and additional funding ‘to rapidly put the necessary measures in place so that visiting can be a reality for all in care homes during this period’.
She continued: ‘In order for this to be a reality, the guidance needs to be practicable, supportive, resourced and facilitate meaningful visits that relatives and residents can gain from, and that care homes can provide.’
The Alzheimer’s Society have said the suggestions ‘completely miss the point’, adding that ‘this attempt to protect people will kill them’.
In a statement, it continued: ‘The prison style screens the government proposes – with people speaking through phones – are frankly ridiculous when you consider someone with advanced dementia can often be bed-bound and struggling to speak.’
But Nursing in Practice professional adviser Marilyn Eveleigh said the Government’s ‘about-turn’ would ‘embed the humanity expected of our profession’, in an opinion piece to be published in the November/ December edition of the magazine.
With no lifting of the ban in the lockdown announcement over the weekend it was assumed visits would not be allowed during this month’s restrictions.
A 35-signature open letter signed by many infection prevention and control (IPC) experts last month suggested stopping families and friends visiting relatives was ‘at times an abuse’ of IPC principles.
Ms Eveleigh suggested in her column the Government had taken note of the letter, adding: ‘IPC should never be at the expense of compassionate care: it is an enabler of safe entry.‘
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Care homes should feel empowered by this new guidance to look at safe options to allow visits to care homes that suit their residents and facilities’.
He continued: ‘It is vital high quality, compassionate care and infection control remains at the heart of every single care home to protect staff and resident’s lives, but we must allow families to reunite in the safest way possible.’