Care home residents to be reunited with families by Christmas

1 December 2020, 16:52 | Updated: 1 December 2020, 16:57

File photo: Residents in all tiers will be able to have visitors over the Christmas period
File photo: Residents in all tiers will be able to have visitors over the Christmas period. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Care home residents will be reunited with their families by Christmas as the Government rolls out increased testing capacity allowing relatives to visit.

Residents in all tiers will be able to have visitors over the Christmas period as over a million tests are sent out over the next month, with visits to begin in the first homes on Wednesday.

The Department for Health and Social Care said a significant increase in testing capacity, paired with new testing technology, will allow visitors to care homes if they receive a negative result prior to the visit.

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Visitors will still need to wear PPE and follow other infection control measures within the care home to keep their loved ones, other residents and staff safe.

The number of testing kits being supplied will allow up to two visitors per resident, visiting twice a week.

The DHSC added that the move will enable care homes to safely maintain a balance between infection control and the vital benefits of visiting to the health and wellbeing of residents.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “I know how difficult it has been for people in care homes and their families to be apart for so long. The separation has been painful but has protected residents and staff from this deadly virus.

“I’m so pleased we are now able to help reunite families and more safely allow people to have meaningful contact with their loved ones by Christmas.

“This news has been made possible by the unprecedented strides made in testing technology and capacity, as well as extra PPE supplies."

Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: “COVID-19 is a cruel virus that has torn families apart and denied so many the simple human pleasure of contact with a loved one, which means everything to so many living in care homes.

“My focus is on making sure good quality care can still be provided to everyone who needs it, while keeping carers and the people they look after safe.

“It is impossible to eliminate risk entirely, but now thanks to an enormous expansion of testing capacity and a huge delivery of free PPE we can help to more safely reunite families throughout December.”

More than a million lateral flow tests have already been sent out to the 385 biggest care homes as the first tranche of a phased approach to make visits safer.

The government is also publishing new guidance allowing some residents under 65 to spend time with their families at Christmas outside of care homes.

Working age residents may be able to join their families in their homes subject to an individual risk assessment, a negative test before leaving and a period of self-isolation upon return.

However, they may only form a bubble with one other household and should not form a three-household Christmas bubble at any point.

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England said: “As the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, Care England is pleased that the Government has responded to the needs of the sector. In order for these promising plans to land successfully, the sector must now be adequately supported by the Government.

"Care England has always supported meaningful contact between families and residents, whilst recognising that the balance between freedom and safety needs to be explored at the most granular level possible.

“We appreciate the continued risks associated with visits, but this represents a positive step forwards. The most important relationships in most people’s lives are with their families or other people, where love and trust are shared.”