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Government publishes updated guidance on care home visits

Commons

New guidance allowing care home residents to have regular visits from a nominated individual has been published by the government.

The guidance for care homes in England, which was published yesterday, applies from 8 March.

The publication drew a mix response from care leaders with the Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) saying it fell well short of providing older people with the support they needed to protect their well-being or to ensure meaningful visits.

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Helen Wildbore, Director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said: “Many of our helpline callers will welcome this first step of being able to see and hold hands with their relatives. But only allowing help with care in exceptional circumstances, for those in ‘critical’ need, will leave the majority of residents without the support desperately needed. People with dementia and other conditions rely on touch, not just in ‘critical’ situations but as part of everyday wellbeing.

“The new guidance lacks the teeth necessary to ensure the Prime Minister’s promise to reunite older people with their families becomes a reality. Instead the government continues to pass the buck onto care providers without providing the clarity and direction needed to make sure this happens. Asking care providers to enforce a single named visitor per resident is likely to lead to heartbreaking, difficult conversations at a time when care staff are already so stretched.”

Vic Rayner, Chief Executive at the National Care Forum, the leading member association for not for profit care providers, said:  “The Prime Minister has made a commitment that this, and other cautious moves out of national lockdown, are ‘irreversible’ and he must ensure that all parties at local and national level work together to fulfil that promise.

“The important introduction of the essential caregiver role will provide the vital continuity that our most vulnerable residents need. It will enable those residents who desperately need to be reconnected with loved ones to be reunited and have them once again a consistent part of their life in the care home.

“Care home providers will continue to need support to implement this guidance. It is reliant on government sustaining free PPE, ongoing access to testing and to recognising the additional costs to care homes in managing the complexities of safe visiting within a pandemic.

“It is of huge concern that at the same time that the government is relaunching visiting, it has missed the opportunity within the Budget to provide assurance that the emergency funding for testing and visiting will be extended beyond the end of March 2021. If the notion of an irreversible step forward in enabling visiting is to be believed, then the government must also put forward an irreversible commitment to resource it.”

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The author Lee Peart

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