Care home residents in all tiers will be able to see their families again this Christmas period, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced (DHSC).
DHSC said more than a million tests will be sent out providers over the next month, while visits will begin in the first homes tomorrow (December 2).
Friends and family will be able to visit relatives in care homes if they receive a negative result prior to the visit.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said 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.
‘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.’
DHSC said it will still be critical for visitors to wear appropriate PPE and follow other infection control measures within the care home to keep their loved ones, other residents and staff safe.
An extra 46m items of free PPE will be sent to CQC-registered care home providers through the government portal in addition to PPE already available. Over 220 million items of PPE have been provided to adult care homes since April.
Health bosses said the number of tests kits being supplied has been modelled to allow up to two visitors per resident, visiting twice a week. Care homes will manage the number of visits to ensure they can enable safe visiting and the programme will be continuously reviewed as it is rolled out.
Visitors will still be expected to follow infection prevention and control procedures. Visitors should minimise contact as much as possible to reduce the risk of transmission.
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.
If anyone planning to visit a care home develops symptoms they must cancel the visit, self-isolate and order a test.
Ian Trenholm, chief executive at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said:
‘Today’s announcement from the Department of Health and Social will be welcomed by many families who will now be able to see their loved ones over Christmas and to care providers who will be secure in the knowledge they are keeping their residents safe.
‘Person-centred care has never been more important and recognising that part of people’s identity and wellbeing comes from their relationships is key.
‘Being able to visit friends and family in person wherever possible is at the heart of this and that is why we have encouraged care providers to support visiting as best they can whilst keeping people safe.
‘We are also delighted to be able to offer the additional assurance to care providers that our inspectors will be getting weekly testing for Covid-19, following the Department for Health and Social Care’s decision to offer testing to key workers.
‘It is vital we continue to work together to meet the continued challenges of the pandemic and keep people safe.’
Photo Credit – Pixabay