North Yorkshire’s social care leaders welcome the news that care home visits will be able to continue in North Yorkshire during the new national lockdown from today.
Despite a significant rise in infection rates of Covid-19 across the county since September, we had supported the recommendations of a task group we had established last month to look at safe visits to people who live in care settings. The task group recommended that care home visits by family and friends should take place as long as a number of conditions were met.
The new recommendations encouraged homes to ensure there is a designated visitor for each resident to visit in person, subject to keeping to rules on hygiene, physical distancing and protective equipment. They also set out advice of meeting up outdoors. In homes where there are outbreaks, however, restrictions prohibiting visits need to remain in place, for the safety of all residents.
“We know how very important it is to the mental health and emotional wellbeing of residents and their friends and families for visits to care settings to take place, if at all possible, without jeopardising safety,” said Richard Webb, North Yorkshire’s director of health and adult services.
“When Covid-19 infection rates began to rise across communities in September we asked care homes to pause routine visits so as to protect residents. However, we set up a task group which included residents and families to look into how visits could be made safe long-term.
“We acted on their recommendations so that from the start of November we could ask all care homes to be open for one visitor for each resident, subject to keeping to rules on hygiene, physical distancing and protective equipment.
“We are very pleased that the new national lockdown regulations will enable these visits to continue.”
All care home residents in England should be able to receive visits from their family and friends in a COVID-secure way – with social distancing and PPE – following the Government’s new guidance to be used while national restrictions are in place from Thursday 5 November.
The guidance enables care home providers, families and local professionals to work together to find the right balance between the benefits of visiting on wellbeing and quality of life, and the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to social care staff and care home residents.
It will set out clear principles for how visits are conducted – with arrangements to be adapted from home to home, based on the needs of their residents and taking into consideration factors such as layout and facilities - and re-iterates the importance of ensuring social distancing and proper PPE use is observed.
Government plans are currently being developed to allow specific family and friends to visit care homes supported by testing. A sector-led group is overseeing the development of these plans with trials set to begin later this month.
A new national programme for weekly testing of professionals who regularly visit care homes, including community nurses and physiotherapists, will also be rolled out in the coming weeks following a successful pilot in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Northamptonshire. North Yorkshire County Council and the Independent Care Group have written to Ministers asking for the County to be included in the pilot and North Yorkshire’s MPs have also been making the case for this to happen.
“We would ask residents, family and friends to be patient with care providers while they work out how to take on board the new guidance,” said Richard Webb. “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 find a way forward.”
Mike Padgham, Chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG), said: “The ICG is very keen that relatives should be able to visit loved ones in care settings as it has taken a huge toll on everyone’s mental health – residents, families, friends and staff – for people to be apart for so long. It is therefore very good news that visits from family and friends will be able to take place.
“We have to be realistic and realise it will take time in many instances for homes and settings to work out what level of visiting can be allowed while always keeping the welfare of residents and staff uppermost. It will be up to individual homes to decide what they can accommodate.
“The changes and adaptations suggested by the Government will have cost implications for care providers and we would like to see this recognised through greater support from the Government.
“We would also like to see the Government address the issue of indemnifying care providers against legal claims over Covid-19 deaths in care settings, as they do for NHS healthcare. This is an issue that is worrying providers. We have to work together to support providers as they put the safety of the people they serve first.”
Richard Webb said: “We ask families, friends and residents to work with care homes and to support them and each other through the pressure of the coming weeks.”
Public Health and adult social care teams across North Yorkshire 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.