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Calls for urgent action to help care homes receive more visitors

Health / Sun 6th Sep 2020 at 02:16pm

THE Labour party and charities have called on ministers to take urgent action to help care homes in England receive more visitors, amid widespread warnings that isolation because of coronavirus is causing many residents to deteriorate rapidly reports The Guardian.

The shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall, said the government should introduce more testing and protective equipment, while a charity which represents care residents and their families called for a wider re-evaluation of visiting rules to take into account the impact of separation from loved ones.

“We need a better balance between protecting people from the virus and protecting their wellbeing and thinking about what makes a good life,” said Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives and Residents Association. “People don’t just want to survive, they want to live.”

More than 16,000 people have died from Covid-19 in UK care homes, which were locked down for months to try and limit further infection. Under rules in England updated in July, a single relative can make brief visits, often for around 30 minutes once a week, and held outside where possible.

Wildbore said the government guidance “puts the onus on the managers of care homes to come up with a visiting policy, but it is confusing, lacks clarity, and it also lacks leadership”.

She said: “It’s a care setting, but these are people’s homes. We’ve heard about care homes opposite shops. They can see people outside, coming and going and living their life, and they ask, ‘Why aren’t we allowed out? Why aren’t our relatives allowed in?’”

Nadra Ahmed, the chair of National Care Association, which represents many care homes, said the sector faced a near-impossible situation: “There’s a legacy from what they’ve lived through, which has been pure hell in order to keep people alive, and living with the blame from very senior politicians. And then they have to decide: how do you allow people into the service while ensuring that you safeguard everybody else?”

While a system of “proper, consistent, sustainable testing” would help, in the longer term, she said, one solution could be the government’s proposal for mass tests with results in as little as 20 minutes, which could be used for visitors as well as staff and residents.

But, she added, care homes also faced the issue of insurers removing indemnity coverage for Covid cases. She said: “Providers are absolutely terrified of potential claims. The government has indemnified the hospitals and it needs to do the same from the sector, to safeguard it from ambulance-chasing lawyers.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We realise this is a very difficult time for families and care home residents who want to see their loved ones. Our first priority must be to protect residents and staff by ensuring visits are carried out safely to prevent outbreaks.

“As a result of action taken, the latest figures show almost 60% of England’s care homes have had no outbreak at all and the proportion of coronavirus deaths in care homes is lower in England than many other European countries.”

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