Older peoples’ charity Age UK has warned that many older people may not be reunited with their families by Christmas as progress on resuming care home visits has stalled.
Research by the charity found that 70% of people surveyed had not been able to visit or see their loved on since the start of the pandemic.
More than one in three (34%) said they had been offered no alternative to in person visiting such as a video call.
Just under half (45%) of family, friends and residents who had been able to see each other during the pandemic said seeing their loved ones in person was vital because they couldn’t use digital options.
The government has said that all care homes should be able to offer visits by Christmas.
However, roll-out of the rapid testing programme to make this happen has been dogged with problems with some councils pausing testing due to doubts over the accuracy of later flow tests.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, (pictured) said: “It’s extremely disappointing that even with the Government’s new guidance encouraging in person visiting when the right precautions are in place many older people and their loved ones are still waiting to meet up, with no hope of that changing particularly soon. As one barrier is overcome another always seems always to take its place, whether it’s the pronounced risk aversion of some care home chains and their insurers, or a lack of confidence in Lateral Flow Tests among some local authorities.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO, Care England, said: “We need assurance from the Government that the LRF tests are reliable. Testing is an integral part of the visiting jigsaw and providers need confidence in the system. In addition, it essential that the Government provides indemnity for providers as a matter of urgency.”
Vic Rayner, executive director at the National Care Forum (NCF), added: “A properly resourced and communicated regime of testing must be able to commence in all homes across the country.
“Recent government guidance outlines just how detailed the process of administering lateral flow devices is and it is clear that it will require homes to dedicate large numbers of care hours to this approach.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We know visiting restrictions in care homes have been difficult for residents, families and staff and we have done everything we can to safely enable visits.
“We have sent out millions of free tests and items of PPE and, as Age UK correctly states, offered guidance to support care home providers to bring families back together and will continue to work with the sector to identify any further support we can provide.
“Extensive testing has shown lateral flow devices are suitable for use in care homes as part of the approach and it’s essential visitors wear PPE and follow all infection control methods to keep their loved ones, other residents and staff as safe as possible.”