Care home residents in England will be able to receive two visitors indoors from April 12, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.
Health bosses said regular visits are being extended from one to two people under carefully designed conditions to prevent transmission of Covid-19.
Visitors will be asked to provide a negative test result and wear PPE during the visit. In the coming weeks, as testing capacity continues to increase, some visitors will be able to conduct tests at home rather than at care homes to help manage the flow of visitors and allow more visits to take place.
Visitors who are parents will also be able to visit with babies and very young children, who will not count as one of the visitors.
Further opportunities for relatives and contacts to have outdoor, pod and screen visits will continue in line with the published guidance which has been in place during lockdown.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) welcomed the news but is urging care homes to proceed with caution.
ICG chair Mike Padgham: ‘Today’s announcement will be very welcome to home residents and their families, who have been restricted to just one visitor in recent week.
‘It will be nice to bring more people who have been apart for too long, back together and for many the chance to see grand-children and great-grand-children, in some cases for the first time.
‘We also support those calling for residents over 65 to be able to enjoy a trip out to get a change of scenery and some fresh air, as those under that age can.
‘It is hard to object to a party of over-65s going out in a minibus, for example, to enjoy a change of scenery and some fresh air, provided they were careful. We would like to see the government give greater guidance on this going forward.
‘Of course, in all of these things, we must proceed with care, follow all the guidance on masks, social distancing, PPE and good hygiene. All relaxation of restrictions do bring with them risk, but we have to balance risk with the benefits these changes can bring.
‘Our message is: ‘proceed with caution’ adhere to the guidance and let’s keep each other safe.
‘We also have to say to families that they will have to be patient with their local homes as these changes will place a lot more pressure on those settings.
‘It will mean added workload in terms of testing and managing visits, preparing residents to leave the building and so on. These are welcome changes for our residents and their families but will put further pressure on providers.’
Minister for care Helen Whately said: ‘Increasing care home visiting is a top priority as we ease Covid restrictions. I know just how much these visits mean to residents and their loved ones.
‘I’m pleased we were able to introduce more meaningful visits to care homes in March. Seeing friends and family reunited has been incredibly moving. Thank you to all of our amazing care workers for helping to make this possible.
‘We want to go further, so we’re allowing more visitors at this next stage of the roadmap, and our aim is to make visits to care homes as normal as possible by the summer.
‘We know how cruel this virus can be in care homes so we must continue to follow the science and data, but things are looking up.’
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