‘Game changer’ tests will make care home visits safer
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Testing visitors to care homes for coronavirus will be a game changer when it comes to ensuring the safety of elderly residents and their families.
At present one or at most two so-called constant visitors are allowed to visit residents in homes which have no positive Covid-19 cases.
Now a pilot scheme is being launched in which friends and family members will be regularly tested, to reduce the risk of the bringing the virus with them.
Daya Thayan, chief executive of Lowestoft-based Kingsley Healthcare, said the scheme would be a “game changer”.
Kinglsley operates 31 homes, 20 of them in East Anglia, with 1,200 residents and 1,800 staff. They include centres in Norwich, Thetford, Great Yarmouth, Downham Market, Wroxham, Diss, Bungay and Lowestoft.
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Mr Thayan said: “Kingsley has supported this from the very outset and we are delighted the government has taken on board the cries for help from care home operators and families alike.
“A Normandy veteran who lives in one of our Norfolk homes said the coronavirus lockdown had been more difficult for him than the war and that sums up how difficult it has been.
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“Care home visits are a basic human right and families are at the heart of the person centred care system of which we are proud.”
Veteran John Lister, 101, spoke out as he marked Remembrance Day with residents at Thorp House nursing home at Griston, near Watton.Mr Thayan said care homes should be offered the same indemnity as that which offered the NHS protection against legal action if a hospital patient contracted Covid-19.
Kingsley’s homes were closed to all but essential visitors during the height of the first wave. Socially-distanced family visits are currently being allowed subject to stringent checks.
Mr Thayan said: “it is so important to understand that families are the heartbeat of residents’ wellbeing and care in care homes.”
Care homes across Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon will pioneer the new system. Around 20 care homes will be included in the trial before a wider rollout before Christmas.
Regular testing will be offered to one family member or friend per resident, which when combined with other infection control measures such as PPE, will support meaningful visits, including where possible indoor visits without a screen to take place while reducing the risk to care home residents, staff and visitors.
Minister for care Helen Whately said: “As Christmas approaches, I want to bring an end to the pain of separation and help care homes bring families and loved ones together. The launch of visitor testing is a crucial step to making that happen.”