Care home residents are to be limited to three visitors plus an essential care giver under new COVID-19 guidance announced by the government.
The government also announced a £300m recruitment and retention fund for bonuses and to bring forward planned pay rises for care staff, fund overtime and staff banks to increase workforce numbers up until the end of March.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) said: “Throughout the pandemic we have done everything we can to protect the adult social care sector, and the emergence of the Omicron variant means this is more important than ever.
“This new funding will support our incredible workforce by recruiting new staff and rewarding those who have done so much during this pandemic.
“Boosting the booster rollout in social care and updating the visiting guidance will help keep the most vulnerable people in our society safe from the virus this winter.”
In response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, specialist vaccination teams are being expanded and deployed to all care home residents and staff.
Care homes will also be able to request follow up booster visits from vaccination teams for staff and residents.
Over 70% of older care home residents have received a booster jab and 97% of homes have been visited by vaccination teams with the remainder expected to receive visits shortly.
However, less than 30% of staff in care homes for older people have received the booster.
Staff testing will be increased from two lateral flow tests per week to three as well as a weekly PCR test. Fully vaccinated residents visiting out will be asked to take a lateral flow test on alternate days for two weeks after a visit. Those not fully vaccinated will be expected to isolate following a visit out.
While welcoming the £300m additional funding and expansion of the booster programme, the National Care Forum expressed concerns about new restrictions on care home visits.
CEO Vic Rayner OBE said: “New guidance issued by the government must take very seriously the potential restrictions on individuals living within care homes. It must not disproportionately limit access to family and friends, both within and outside of the home, whilst the rest of society continues to be encouraged to party and mingle without consequence.”