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Government Pilot for Care Home Visits

January 01, 1970

The current guidance to care homes in England is that all residents should be allowed Covid-secure visits, using visitor pods, window visits or outdoor visits with one person. However dementia charities and campaigners say that for bed-bound residents, visitor pods and outdoor visits are not an option and with many residents living with dementia, window visits can cause confusion or just lead to more heartache. To enable visits to take place inside care homes, the government is today launching a pilot with 20 care homes in Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon trialling the initiative where a designated visitor is regularly tested. If the pilot is successful the government plans to roll out the scheme across England over December in time for Christmas. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know how heart-breaking restricting visits to care homes has been, not only for residents, many of whom will feel disoriented and confused by the situation, but also their loved ones who aren’t able to simply hug each other to support them in this difficult time. “Thanks to the expanding testing capacity we have in place we can now begin to trial a new way to allow safer visits to take place and prevent the spread of COVID-19. I must stress this is only possible if the public takes the right actions now to bring the transmission rate under control while national restrictions are in place.” The regular testing will be offered to one family member or friend per resident, and will be combined with other infection control measures such as PPE. Visitors will be offered either PCR tests which they can do at home, or the new 30 minute rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs) which can be administered in person at care homes before a visit. 'I want to bring an end to pain of separation' Minister for Care, Helen Whately added: “The pandemic has torn many lives apart but few have been more affected than people living in care homes and their families. I know visits from loved ones are what makes life worth living for many care home residents, yet these have been few and far between over the last few months. Visits with a screen or window are better than nothing for many, but they are too confusing or simply impossible for people with advanced dementia. “That’s why on Monday we are starting visitor testing, firstly in around 20 care homes across Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon. Each resident will be able to have one relative or friend who can be their ‘key visitor’ who will take a Covid-test, and then be able to come for an indoor visit without a screen. “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.” Each care home receiving lateral flow tests will receive a box of 675 initially and will be given access to more as required. The initial pilot care homes have been selected in local authorities where Covid transmission rates are low. If successful, care home testing will be rolled out in a phased way across the country, with any decision on a national rollout taken in light of the latest available data on transmission rates as a result of national COVID-19 restrictions. The government anticipates that the lateral flow tests will be used across the country to support rapid access. If these faster tests work in this setting the government said it will ring fence supply to open up more chances for visiting.

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