Suffolk care homes encouraged to allow ‘safe visits’ during lockdown
PUBLISHED: 16:19 04 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:19 04 November 2020
Care home residents in Suffolk should be able to receive visits from loved ones during England’s second lockdown.
The government has today issued guidance saying that “care homes will be encouraged and supported to provide safe visiting opportunities.”
Covid-19 secure measures allowing families to meet will include floor-to-ceiling screens, visiting pods, and window visits, where the visitor does not need to come inside the building.
Prema Fairburn-Dorai, chairman of the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers (SAICP), welcomed the news, saying: “I think it’s good for both residents and staff.
“It will make a big difference, because the residents are going to be so much happier. It’s leading up to Christmas, and it’s very important for them to see their families.
“It will also benefit the staff to have happier residents.”
Ms Fairburn-Dorai said the Care Market Cell group, which includes representatives from SAICP, residential care, nursing care and other organisations, had been looking at how visiting could be organised safely.
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“The only way we can contain Covid-19 is to work together - and we are working together very well.”
She said visits from loved ones were extremely important to residents, with the right protection and protocols in place.
“You just can’t have a blanket ban, because it is actually having a devastating effect on residents’ mental health and well-being, and often they don’t understand why they can’t have visits.”
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Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, said: “I know how heartbreaking and incredibly frustrating it has been for families and friends who haven’t been able to see their loved ones during the pandemic.
“Care homes should feel empowered by this new guidance to look at safe options to allow visits to care homes that suit their residents and facilities. We’ve seen some really innovative solutions used to help families see each other safely, face-to-face, which has been life-changing for some.”
Alice Grange care home in Kesgrave, run by Barchester Healthcare, has introduced a designated visiting room for residents which has a Perspex glass divider, in line with the new advice.
As winter approaches, the new room has been designed so that residents and family and friends can continue to meet up indoors. The room has an intercom system fitted so residents can communicate with visitors.
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Andrea Crowley, general manager at Alice Grange, said: “The designated visiting room has been a much welcomed development for our residents to continue to receive much looked-forward to visits from their loved ones, as the weather changes.
“Alongside the continued offer of outdoor visiting, the designated room visits are well organised, and a lot of safety measures have been put in place to keep everyone safe. It was wonderful to see how happy it made the residents and their relatives in a warm and cosy environment.”
Infection control protocols and safe social distancing are in place for every visit.
Barchester Healthcare said feedback from families to date is that the majority of people would accept unusual arrangements as a temporary measure, if it means being able to see their loved ones safely.
Plans are currently being developed to allow specific family and friends to visit care homes supported by testing. A sector-led group is overseeing the development of these plans with trials set to begin later this month.
A new national programme for weekly testing of professionals who regularly visit care homes, including community nurses and physiotherapists, will also be rolled out in the coming weeks.
In addition, 11,000 iPad tablets, worth £7.5 million, will soon be distributed to thousands of care homes across England to help residents keep in touch with loved ones.
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