A care home boss has called for more details on residents being allowed to have one regular indoor visitor from 8 March as part of the easing of lockdown in England.
Visitors will be able to meet indoors and hold hands – but must take a lateral flow test, which gives quick results, as well as wear PPE and avoid any closer contact, the Government announced over the weekend.
The care home visits policy is part of the Government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, the details of which Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce later today.
But Independent Care Group chairman Mike Padgham said more details were needed on arrangements to ensure visits are safe, especially as care home residents are among the most vulnerable to Covid-19.
He warned: ‘We must sound a note of caution because Covid-19 hasn’t gone away and we are caring for the most vulnerable and most susceptible to it.
‘We need some clarification – for example, the announcement says holding hands will be allowed but warns against ‘close contact’. How is that going to be possible? There is going to have to be some very close but compassionate supervision of these visits.’
Outdoor visits – as well as those inside pods or behind screens – will continue as they have during lockdown, giving residents the chance to see more than just their nominated indoor visitor.
Close-contact care will be restricted to visitors who provide essential assistance to residents, such as help dressing, eating or washing. Existing guidance already enables these visits under exceptional circumstances.
Caroline Abrahams, director of charity Age UK, said: ‘Hundreds of thousands of older people in care homes and their loved ones will sleep a little easier tonight, now they know the journey towards fully reopening care homes to visiting is to begin soon.’
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I know how important visiting a loved one is and I’m pleased we will soon be in a position for people to be carefully and safely reunited with loved ones who live in care homes.
‘This is just the first step to getting back to where we want to be. We need to make sure we keep the infection rate down, to allow greater visiting in a step-by-step way in the future.’
Chief nurse for adult social care Professor Deborah Sturdy said: ‘This is a first step towards resuming indoor visits and we all hope to be able to take further steps in the future.’
The government met its target to offer all care home residents – along with social care and NHS staff, all those aged over 70 and the most clinically vulnerable – a vaccine by 14 February. However, Mr Hancock revealed last week that a third of social care staff have still not been vaccinated.
The announcement over the weekend did not specify the grade of PPE visitors should wear but said the government will provide free tests and personal protective equipment to support the scheme