The easing of the national lockdown has meant that care homes across the country have opened their doors to enable much needed visits from loved ones.
The National Care Forum (NCF) – the association for not-for-profit care providers – surveyed its members on 15th March to find out what is happening on the ground one week in to the implementation of the new government guidance on care home visiting. The response to the survey was overwhelmingly positive and reinforced the importance and impact visiting has on residents in care homes and their loved ones. However, grave levels of concern about how visits could be sustained without the continuation of government funding was echoed among care providers.
Emergency funding made available through the Infection Control Fund and the Rapid Testing Fund has made it possible for care providers to facilitate visits due to the added costs associated with the administration, testing and infection prevention and control measures required to manage visits, and to minimise the risk of virus transmission in accordance with government guidance.
However, the emergency funding comes to an end on 31st March 2021, and to date the government has remained silent as to whether or not this funding will continue. It is essential that the government commits to extend this funding or there is a risk that all the fantastic progress made to reunite family and friends will be affected.
Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum says:-
“It is impossible to understand why the government, with less than two weeks to go before the end of March, is remaining silent about continuing the funding that has been central to enabling the reintroduction of visiting at pace and scale and the ongoing programme of rapid testing for visitors, staff and residents.
“In our survey of NCF members, 83% of care homes were using the Infection Control Fund to facilitate visits including providing additional staff, cleaning, and space for testing and visitors. 85% of respondents were using the Rapid Testing Fund to provide staff to carry out and record the testing of visitors. This heavy reliance on the emergency funding to make visiting happen, means that without this money, the return to regular visiting is being put in jeopardy. The government must immediately confirm that this funding will be extended or risk breaking the commitment to an ‘irreversible’ step forward around visiting.”
The survey also shows that providers have positively embraced visiting and the new approach to regular visitors. In over 60% of homes, the majority of residents have identified people that they want as regular visitors and those visits are taking place. There is also a growing cohort of people who are being assessed and identified as an essential caregiver.
Alongside these new approaches introduced by the government guidance care homes are continuing to use pods, and outdoor visits to enable people to have a growing breadth of visitors. The survey results also show that care homes are embracing the new Partners in Care resources that has been produced by the NCF in partnership with relatives and residents organisations to help providers implement the government guidance in facilitating meaningful visits.
“The challenges of introducing indoor visiting is well expressed by a member who talks of the ‘very delicate balance between our residents’ mental wellbeing and any further risk of their catching COVID-19’. The government has in its gift the ability to ensure that those scales are firmly tipped towards supporting wellbeing by ensuring all the necessary resources are in place to safely facilitate the meaningful visits that is laid out in the guidance, and that all residents need and want. Leaving decision making to the wire is never the way to treat people, but particularly not those who have waited nearly a year to be reunited, only to have that precious connection put in jeopardy as we wait once more for the government to prioritise the funding of social care.“