A care home visitor scheme allowing family members to regularly visit their loved ones is to be piloted in England.
Social Care Minister Helen Whately (pictured) told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee that a relative or friend would be treated as a key worker under the pilot so they can have frequent access to their loved one.
Ms Whately said: “I am planning to launch a pilot shortly. I can’t give you a date but I can say we are moving forward with it.
“Visiting is incredibly important for residents and their families in care homes. I really want us to enable visiting but it has to be safe.”
The designated relative or friend will be required to undergo weekly testing and wearing PPE.
The government announcement, which followed the easing of care home visiting restrictions in Scotland, was welcomed by campaigners.
Jayne Connery, founder of the Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, said: “Our elderly in care homes, many who live with dementia, are reported to be declining in emotional and physical health and this news today will bring many sighs of relief from loving families hopeful for face to face contact with elderly relatives. However, our thoughts do remain with the families where this has come too late.”
Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the National Care Forum, added: “The government must act quickly to move us to a place where this pilot comes into play, and we move to a situation across the country where the default assumption is that meaningful and regular visiting is a clear part of every resident’s care. For many, the decisions that are taken about visiting are life changing, and potentially life limiting. None of this is easy – but nothing that mattered ever was.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise how important it is to allow care home residents to safely meet their loved ones, especially for those at the end of their lives, and the challenges visiting restrictions pose for people with dementia, learning disabilities, autistic adults and their family and friends in particular.”
“Our priority remains the prevention of infection in care homes to protect staff and residents but we are considering plans to allow specific family and friends to visit care homes safely. We will set out further details in due course.”