Organisations call for care home visits to resume

Vic Rayner

Easing lockdown restrictions should include plans to reunite care home residents with their families.

The National Care Forum (NCF), Age UK, Relatives and Residents Association, John’s Campaign, Rights for Residents and the Registered Nursing Homes Association have banded together calling on government to resume visits by 1 March.

The call comes as media reports suggest Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce plans for the easing of lockdown on Monday (22 February).

‘Many care homes have continued to offer visiting throughout the pandemic, balancing risks with the need to retain ongoing family contact,’ said NCF executive director Vic Rayner.

‘If dates have been set for the opening of bars and pubs, restaurants, schools and other industries, then the same effort and resolve must be given to opening up care homes to reunite families.’

Care minister Helen Whately has suggested face-to-face visits could return within weeks, saying she wants homes to open sooner than waiting for residents to have the second vaccination.

However, Independent Care Group chair Mike Padgham said before visits can begin greater government guidance is needed so they can be done safely.

‘We need proper guidance on whether it is safe to allow proper visits when our residents might only have had one vaccine dose,’ he said.

‘And we need clarity on what form this visiting can take, whether it can include physical contact, or still include PPE and what safety measures will still need to be in place.

‘Personally, I think we need to approach it cautiously, with a phased approach,’ Padgham added.

Earlier this month, a group of MPs sought an end to blanket bans on care home visiting.

Chair of the joint committee on human rights Harriet Harman wrote to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock regarding the impact of long lockdown on the human rights of those in care homes, hospitals and prisons.