Coronavirus: ‘Nervousness’ as ban on families visiting care homes set to be relaxed

There is “nervousness” in the care sector as restrictions on family visits are due to be eased by the government.

Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, said some care homes are already piloting visits so clearer guidance from ministers will be welcome.

Many residents have been left unable to see loved ones due to how hard care homes have been hit by COVID-19, with around 19,000 deaths reported in them.

On Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised to make an announcement soon on resuming visits safely.

“We’ve been very very careful to ensure that visitors don’t bring coronavirus back into a care home, but in the next few days we will be setting out how COVID secure visiting can happen,” he told ITV News.

Government officials said those care homes that do not feel comfortable letting in visitors will not be forced to.

Some regions, such as those subject to local lockdown measures like Leicester, may also decide not to bring in the changes.

Sky News understands the proposals are currently being reviewed and could be announced as early as next week.

Ms Ahmed said there was “nervousness” in the sector at the change and that while routine testing for care home visitors would be a welcome “layer of precaution”, it would take a significant amount of work to arrange.

In the meantime, a group of leading charities have called for family carers – who make up 44% of the total cost of dementia care – to be given “key worker” status so they can be allowed to attend care homes.

The heads of Dementia UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and others said it is wrong someone with dementia can be visited if they are a patient in hospital – but not if they live in care homes.

“Family carers, whose own mental health has been put at risk by the separation, should, and must be able to, see, nurture and touch those they support, while of course following exactly the same infection-control protocols as the paid carer,” the charities wrote in a letter published on Friday.

“For this to happen, care homes urgently need informed guidance from a government that has been strangely silent.

“The care-provider organisations have done their best, but they do not have the authority to instruct their members, and many managers of care homes will refuse to open up until they receive specific instruction to do so from the government.”

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