North Yorkshire’s public health and social care leaders have urgently issued further advice and clarification about visits taking place to people who live in residential and nursing homes across the county from tomorrow.
This in the light of an imminent announcement about a likely new national lockdown.
Richard Webb, North Yorkshire County Council’s Director of Health and Adult Services said: “Where it is safe to do so, and there isn’t a Covid-19 outbreak in the home, we are still encouraging all care homes to be open for one visitor for each resident, starting from tomorrow, 1st November.
“North Yorkshire is at alert level 1 and that remains the position until the Government announces any changes to the lockdown rules.
“However, we would ask residents, family and friends to be patient with care providers who, given expected news of a national lockdown, may face an unprecedented demand for visits in the next few days.
“It will be up to each home to make decisions and we need to be realistic about what can and cannot be done. We will continue to support care providers, residents and families and friends, to try and make the best amidst the uncertainty that the next few days will bring”.
Yesterday, the County Council published the recommendations of a task group on care settings visiting which advised care homes that visits, indoors and outdoors, could take place so long as certain conditions were met.
The new guidance enables a designated visitor for each resident to visit in person, subject to keeping to rules on hygiene, physical distancing and protective equipment.
In homes where there are outbreaks, however, current restrictions need to remain in place, for the safety of all residents.
Mike Padgham, Chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG), said: “The ICG is very keen to get relatives back visiting their loved ones as quickly as possible as it has taken a huge toll on everyone’s mental health to be apart for so long.
“But if this period for visiting is to be brief and we are set for another, more significant and far-reaching, lockdown in the coming days then we have to be realistic, allow what visiting we are able to accommodate in this short period of time but always keeping the welfare of our residents and staff uppermost. It will be up to individual homes to decide what they can accommodate.
“We fully support the actions taken by North Yorkshire County Council in these difficult and challenging times. We have to work together to put the safety of vulnerable people first.”
In September, the County Council issued advice to care providers across the county to stop in-person visits to combat rising infection rates in the community increasing the risks to care home residents.
Public Health and adult social care teams have been working closely with care providers and health colleagues for the last few months to understand the risks of the second wave of Covid-19 – and how people can remain safe now and throughout the winter.
This includes daily contact with care homes across North Yorkshire and a weekly meeting for all care providers to share experiences and ideas.
The rise in infection rates across the community is deeply concerning and although North Yorkshire is at, or just below, the national average, it was felt there is a need to balance care home residents keeping in touch with family and friends with keeping people safe from Covid-19.
Not being able to have visits to relatives in care homes on a long-term basis also causes distress and affects the physical and mental wellbeing of care home residents.
Throughout October, a task group consisting of younger and older people who live in care, parents and children of people who live in care, dementia advocates and care providers came together to share with the County Council how the restrictions on visiting affected them and to develop ideas as to how these issues could be addressed.
The recommendations by the task group to the County Council on keeping in touch with loved ones were taken on board and informed the decision on how visits would be enabled to take place from tomorrow.
Richard Webb said: “With the likelihood on a new national lockdown imminent, we may be looking at a small very precious window for these visits to take place and our care homes will be doing what they can to enable them to happen. We ask families, friends and residents to work with care homes and to support them and each other through the pressure of the next few days.”