Resumed relative visits must be carefully managed
Care providers have given a cautious welcome to plans to allow relatives to visit care and nursing homes in the coming days.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) says enabling relatives to visit their loved ones is vital to both sides’ mental and physical health after the Covid-19 lockdown.
But it has urged caution and warned that a resumption of visits must be carefully planned and staged to avoid contributing to a second wave of coronavirus.
Secretary of State Matt Hancock told a television interview that he thought visits to residents in care and nursing homes could resume in a matter of days.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “The announcement is a positive one and will be welcomed by thousands of care and nursing home residents and their loved ones who have endured separation now for many, many weeks. It is really important that we can reunite our residents with their families, as it has been distressing for both sides to be physically apart for so long. The sector has been very innovative with quickly introducing remote ways of staying in touch. However, this has not worked well for everyone and is not ideal.
“However, we have to urge caution too, as all relaxation of lockdown restrictions carries with it a risk of reigniting the virus and contributing to a second wave of Covid-19.
“Any resumption of visiting will have to be limited at first and carefully-managed, with full personal protective equipment (PPE) in use, social distancing and hand washing a priority and numbers kept under control.
“We will probably need to do it on an appointment basis at first as homes will not be able to cope with a sudden rush and it will ultimately be up to individual homes and individual local authority areas to decide whether they feel it is safe to allow relatives in.
“We will also need to be mindful of the enormous extra demand this will create for PPE and systems will have to be in place for homes to get supplies to cope with visitors.
“Bodies like Care England and ourselves have been waiting for visiting guidance from the Government for several weeks and we look forward to receiving that information as soon as possible so that we know how to proceed.”
Mr Hancock also hinted that the Government would be looking to improve the pay of care workers in the future
“This was encouraging, as we urgently need to better recognise and reward our care staff for the amazing work they do. Such a move, as part of a complete reform of social care, is long overdue,” Mr Padgham added.
“We look forward to hearing more about the Government’s plans, hopefully very soon.”
The ICG has also supported calls from leading charities including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, for relatives of those with dementia to be treated as key workers, enabling them to visit.
“This is important for those with dementia who have undoubtedly been suffering greatly during lockdown,” Mr Padgham added. “Again, it would need to be properly managed with those relatives getting full access to PPE and Covid-19 testing. We look forward to getting more information on how this might work”
Mr Padgham was disappointed that the Secretary of State was only wearing an NHS badge and not the Care badge as well, when he made the announcement about visiting care homes.
“You can’t have everything,” Mr Padgham added.