Leaders have given a guarded welcome to news of the reopening of care homes to visiting from 8 March.
While welcoming the announcement that every resident will be allowed one visitor, leaders have called for more detailed guidance with some urging the government to go further in ending restrictions.
Helen Wildbore, Director of the Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA), said the proposals fell “far too short” of ending the distress of isolation for the most vulnerable residents.
The director said the restriction of close contact visits to those who provide assistance, such as help dressing, eating or washing, “fundamentally misunderstands” the role relatives and friends play as essential caregivers in protecting resident’s wellbeing.
Jonathan Cunningham MBE, registered manager of Birkdale Park Nursing Home, said that while the government’s announcement was “welcome news” the measures did not go far enough and should include at least two relatives, with “hugging as well as hand holding” permitted.
“This is a cautious start but we must see this opening up rapidly and safely,” Jonathan said.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG), called for clarification on the government’s allowance of hand holding while warning against close contact.
The ICG head said a “more phased return to visiting” may have been preferable with a period of no contact visits followed by “some careful contact”.
The National Care Forum broadly welcomed the cautious easing of visiting while Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said it made sense for the first step to “allow ‘essential care giving visitors’ back into care homes because these individuals are so crucial to the health and wellbeing of the residents they support”.