Leaders urge patience over care home visits

This story was published 2 December 2020

People wanting to visit loved ones in care settings after lockdown restrictions were lifted today, are urged to be patient by North Yorkshire’s care leaders.

Lady with tablet

Leaders welcome the news that the Government has given the go-ahead for care and nursing home residents to have more frequent in-home visits, and for younger residents to visit loved ones themselves over Christmas.

But they warn that the new testing systems will take time to introduce as the Government rolls out testing kits to thousands of homes across the country.

The County Council, NHS and care sector in the County has already been supporting named visitors to care homes, as part of its Keeping In Touch initiative, developed with care home residents, their families and care providers. Find out more.

The Government has just announced that families will be able to go and see relatives in care homes again from this week, providing visitors get a negative result from a rapid coronavirus test – known technically as a lateral flow test.

More than a million of these rapid tests will be sent out to care providers over the next month, along with more PPE supplies. Visitors may be able to hug loved ones if they follow guidance on testing and the wearing of PPE. Testing is an additional layer of protection but people will still need to wear appropriate PPE in care homes and take all the usual measures to prevent transmission.  This way the risk of visits can be reduced and balanced against the benefits they bring to residents and their families.

The policy change follows pilot schemes in Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall. Nationally, 285 homes out of 16000 will receive these testing kits, with more to follow. It is understood that 3 homes in North Yorkshire will be identified as part of the initial 285 across England.

Mike Padgham, who is chair of the Independent Care Group and runs four care homes in North Yorkshire said:  “Yesterday’s news was excellent for all those families who have been apart from their loved ones for too long and every care and nursing home across the country will do its utmost to meet the arrangements the Government has announced.

“But this is going to be a huge undertaking and we appeal to families to be patient with their loved ones’ homes as they try to resume visiting as soon as they can.

“It is going to take time for the tests to reach all homes and then for staff to be trained up in the procedures needed to test relatives and then have them come into homes to see their family and friends.

“The public have shown amazing patience so far and we just appeal to them now to show a little more whilst we prepare for these long-awaited visits.”

North Yorkshire County Council, which has been providing 24/7 support to every care home in the county throughout the Covid-19 pandemic since March, is working with care settings as these new national measures are implemented.

“We all want families and friends to be able to visit loved ones in care settings because we are all too aware of the heavy toll that not being able to visit has had on everybody affected” said Richard Webb, the County Council’s Director of Health and Adult Services. “We celebrate the fact tests are being rolled out to enable more visits to take place and know this will give joy to families, friends and care home residents as we head towards Christmas and through dark winter months.

“However, this is a demanding logistical operation for our care homes and we will give support where it is needed.  We join with care providers to ask people who want to visit, to be patient and to bear with us.  It is vitally important we get this right and that everything is in place will keep people safe”.

He also urged people wanting to bring relatives out of care homes on Christmas Day to think about self-isolating for up to 14 days beforehand.

He said: “We know how important it is for people’s mental health for families and friends to be together at Christmas, but it is the responsibility of all of us to make this coming together as safe as possible.  If we want loved ones in care homes to visit the family home or friends at Christmas, we must take all necessary precautions.  As well as isolating for 14 days beforehand people should also remember to keep to the basic Covid safety rules, wash hands, wear face masks and keep a social distance. The consequences of not taking such essential safety measures could be devastating.”