A coalition of over 60 organisations brought together by the National Care Forum (NCF) has urged the government to enable care home visiting to continue during lockdown.
The open letter to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, and Minister for Care, Helen Whately, came after the government’s announcement of a month-long national lockdown from Thursday.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, (pictured) said: “The coalition has a clear set of asks around testing of visitors and the designation of one person (as a minimum) per resident as a key visitor, as well as enabling every care home to manage visiting in the way that best works for them, with help to create safe COVID-19 visiting spaces. We must work together at pace to have this in place by the end of November. None of this is easy, but nothing that matters ever is.”
The government announced plans for a pilot visitor scheme last month whereby a designated visitor would be given access to testing and PPE by being classed as a key worker without naming a date for the programme. The coalition said care home residents needed visits now.
SCIE’s Chief Executive Kathryn Smith said: “Safe visits are possible: This time, more is understood about the risks of transmission and measures are in place to keep people safe. And we should be more prepared.”
ADASS Immediate Past President, Julie Ogley, added: “Whilst, as a nation, we are facing enormous challenges to minimise the risk of infection and the spread of COVID-19, we must recognise the detrimental impact that not seeing a loved one for a prolonged length of time can have on the individual’s emotional, mental and physical well-being.
“It is pivotal that we strike the right balance between protecting ourselves, people in care, care staff, our families, and our local communities, and the well-being of the individual.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG) urged the government should introduce its plans for visits now rather than wait for a pilot.
“Why does it have to be a pilot scheme?” Mike said. “We know what needs to be done: enable designated relatives to be regarded as keyworkers and have regular tests so that they can visit.
“Our residents and their relatives have waited long enough. The mental health and happiness of residents is suffering – particularly those with dementia. Now that we have a solution, what is going on and why is it taking so long?”