Care homes ready to welcome relatives as guidance revealed
- Credit: Archant
Norfolk care home bosses are relieved they will be able to welcome relatives as planned on Monday after growing concerns new guidance had not been released.
The official guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care was released on Thursday afternoon, leaving homes with four days to put measures in place.
Under the new guidelines, every care home resident is able to nominate one visitor to enter the home for regular visits from March 8, with many homes already receiving emails and calls to see loved ones.
The measures did provide concern for one West Norfolk provider, who received letters on Tuesday, dating back to February 15, saying residents in all four of his homes should shield, which looked to end hopes of indoor reunions until clarification could be sort.
Raj Sehgal, director of ArmsCare, received clarification on Friday afternoon saying the guidance was "definitive" regarding visiting and the letters were applicable only to people living in the community.
He said: "The plan was we were getting ready and trying to organise tests, organise PPE, we had booked appointments for people to come in. With this letter it put a kibosh on things.
"ArmsCare is of course delighted to see an easement of the current restrictions and that our residents in care homes will be amongst the first of us to be able to have visitors.
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"We see this as a very small but positive step in the return to normal visiting as we continue to vaccinate the population and defeat the effects of a virus that has plagued the world as we knew it."
Visitors will be tested using rapid lateral flow tests before every visit, have to wear PPE, and follow infection control measures.
During visits, loved ones will be able to hold hands but are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum. The guidance does not permit close physical contact such as hugging.
Steve Dorrington, who owns three care homes in Wells, Watton and Dereham, said he has hired a new receptionist to help handle emails and calls from visitors to book appointments and free staff to continue with duties such as patients' medication.
He said: "We want to let people in. They will have personal protective equipment, gloves, masks and visors and an apron They will be escorted to the room and they will have 30 minutes.
"I'm pleased it is happening.
"It's an opportunity for us to reassure people their loved ones are alright."
Mr Dorrington asked visitors to arrive at their allocated time and not before to avoid bunching or they would be asked to wait in their car.
At Iceni House, in Swaffham, relatives have been able to visit their loved ones throughout lockdown after the home launched a pilot to include relatives in its staff testing.
Manager Dawn Bunter said it was fantastic news that more loved ones would be able to see their families, as she has worked with groups Right For Residents and Unlock Care Homes to help other care homes to not fear opening their doors.
She said: "Nothing is changing for us.
"We have never had a relative test positive. No relative will come into the home if they are not feeling well. No-one is going to do that.
"We have enabled so many relatives to spend time with residents. We have got to adapt because Covid is not going away anytime soon.
"Residents were thinking their families had left them and moved away. Their health has deteriorated, what they needed was their families."
In response to the guidelines, she said: "The government has left this too late.
"I knew this would happen, it will be a scramble and relatives will ring up care homes and care homes are in essence getting the blame when it isn't the case.
"They are waiting for guidance and understanding. It's really difficult to create a policy.
"The care homes now have three days. That's three days' worth of explaining if they are not in a position to do it."
Homes are able to continue offering visits for other visitors through outdoor visits, substantial screens, visiting pods or behind windows following social distancing guidance.