National lockdown must not mean blocking care home visitors

Monday, November 2, 2020

Over 60 social care organisations, researchers, professionals and allies representing relatives, carers and providers, brought together by the National Care Forum (NCF) have written an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Matt Hancock and the Minister of Care, Helen Whately calling on the Government to ensure families and friends can still visit their loved ones now and in the future.

The letter calls on the Government to embed within the new lockdown regulations that the default position is that care homes are open for visiting and that care homes are supported to enable visits to continue.

The letter makes it clear that people in care homes and their loved ones in the community have fundamental human rights, both as individuals and as a community, and a ban on visiting denies those rights. For older people in particular, who have on average a stay of 2 years in a care home, there simply isn’t enough time for many of those living in care homes today to watch and wait.

The coalition has asked the Government to implement the following by the end of November 2020:

  • Government to fully support testing of visitors to help the management of the virus
  • Enable designation of one person, as a minimum, per resident as a ‘key visitor’ who is eligible for regular testing, PPE and training alongside the care home staff, so they can visit frequently and for longer
  • Enable every care home to manage visiting in the individual way that works best for them, their environment, residents and their workforce and empower providers to work this out by talking with all their residents, their loved ones and staff
  • Support all care homes to create safe COVID-19 visiting spaces to use to facilitate safe visits
  • Work together across the entire health and care sector to support care home visiting, including CQC, local authorities and DPHs, and health and care staff too.
  • Government to provide indemnification or unblock restrictive insurance policies creating barriers to visiting.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum says:

“We all understand that visiting in care homes is a very human balancing act that centres around people and their needs, and the risks for those living and working within a care home and relatives and friends too. However, we must balance the risk of harm from COVID-19 with the risk of harm from isolation and physical, mental, emotional deterioration.

“NCF has brought this coalition together to ensure the government is in no doubt about the wide range of voices who have joined this call for action. They represent the voices of residents, relatives, the workforce, care providers, academics, sector experts and allies. They must be listened to.

“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.”