A coalition of over 60 organisations, brought together by the National Care Forum (NCF), has sent an open letter to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Helen Whately, Minister for Care, calling on Government to allow care home visitors during the national lockdown.
The letter calls on Government to enable visits from families and loved ones, now and in the future, and states it should adopt this position in any new regulations it is drafting for the care sector to cover the national lockdown and the aftermath.
The isolation caused by blanket decisions to not allow care home visitors is intrinsically harmful and evidence of the extreme anguish caused is widely known. Locking down care homes in March was an emergency response to the global pandemic caused by a virus about which little was known. Eight months on, more is understood about the risks of transmission and measures are in place to keep people safe. People in care homes and their loved ones in the community have fundamental human rights, both as individuals and as a community, and a ban on visiting denies those rights. For older people, who have on average a stay of two years in a care home, there simply isn’t enough time for many of those living in care homes today to watch and wait.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum said, ‘We all understand that visiting in care homes is a very human balancing act that centres around people and their needs, and the risks for those living and working within a care home and relatives and friends too. However, we must balance the risk of harm from COVID-19 with the risk of harm from isolation and physical, mental, emotional deterioration.
'NCF has brought this coalition together to ensure the Government is in no doubt about the wide range of voices who have joined this call for action. They represent the voices of residents, relatives, the workforce, care providers, academics, sector experts and allies. They must be listened to.
'The coalition has a clear set of asks around testing of visitors and the designation of one person (as a minimum) per resident as a key visitor, as well as enabling every care home to manage visiting in the way that best works for them, with help to create safe COVID-19 visiting spaces. We must work together at pace to have this in place by the end of November. None of this is easy, but nothing that matters ever is.'
Visitors are more than people who make mere social calls into a care home – often they are spouses, children or long held friends, who play a fundamental role in the everyday care of residents, and while Government has announced a pilot around testing visitors, those living in care homes need visits now. The current tiered approach has already placed 50% of care homes and their residents under a default of blanket visiting restrictions. This cannot remain the accepted position.
The full letter calling on Government to allow care home visitors is available on the NCF website.