Care leaders have set out a series of measures that need to be taken to ensure care home visits can continue after the government’s announcement of new restrictions.
The proposals by the National Care Forum (NCF) and Age UK come after the government’s publication of its adult social care winter plan.
NCF executive director, Vic Rayner (pictured), and Age UK charity director, Caroline Abrahams argue that the winter plan amounts to a “near ban” on care home visits.
The winter plan outlines measures already in place which have created a blanket lockdown on care homes in ‘areas of intervention’, which amount to roughly one-fifth of services in England.
The plan states that “local authority directors of public health should give a regular assessment of whether visiting care homes is likely to be appropriate within their local authority, or within local wards, taking into account the wider risk environment and immediately move to stop visiting if an area becomes an ‘area of intervention’, except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life”.
Arguing against a blanket approach, the NCF and Age UK leaders say decisions on visiting should be made by assessing risks on an individual basis.
They say they are not aware of any evidence that “carefully managed” visits have been a significant risk of infection, adding that evidence points to a much greater risk from staff movement, visiting health professionals and CQC inspectors.
The leaders outline a series of measures needed to ensure that care home visits continue to be the “default” position, including rapid saliva testing for all visitors, designating one person as a ‘special visitor’ who is be eligible for regular testing, PPE and training alongside care staff, public liability indemnity for care home providers and investment in the built environment to minimise risks.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told us: “Our first priority is to prevent infections in care homes and protect staff and residents.
“The Adult Social Care Winter Plan sets out tightened infection prevention and control measures to enable visits to continue safely where possible.
“We expect any area listed as an ‘area of intervention’ to immediately restrict visiting to exceptional circumstances only – such as for the end of someone’s life.”