Urgent funding needed to meet care home visits pledge, providers warn

The Government has been urged to make more funding available if it is to meet its pledge that all care homes will be able to receive visitors by Christmas.

Care homes spent an average of £4,000 on facilitating visits over October, a survey of providers by the National Care Forum (NCF) found.

This was before Government guidance was released on visits during England’s second national lockdown, recommending measures such as installing floor to ceiling Perspex screens, which will add to costs.

Testing visitors is also being trialled across 20 care homes, and this will put additional financial pressure on providers if rolled out more widely, which the Government hopes to do before Christmas.

The NCF surveyed 1,240 of its members, including providers of care homes and domiciliary care, which house 28,810 residents and employ 35,124 staff, in October.

In a briefing held by the NCF, care experts said the Government’s infection control fund (ICF) is already not sufficient to meet care homes’ virus-related costs.

NCF director Vic Rayner said there is a “growing gap between what that fund is intended to cover and the realities of the financial envelope within it”.

Asked how realistic it is that all care homes will be able to receive visitors before Christmas, she said: “In terms of the ICF’s ability to cover costs in relation to carrying out the testing, some of the real kind of staffing costs and the administration and indeed having the space available for it, I think that what we’re saying is that the current ICF levels are not sufficient to cover that.

“So yes… in order to make good this commitment, we will be looking to Government to provide some additional support for homes rapidly and similar confirmation of that, in order that they can get on and do the planning, and that we can move into that position where visiting is a default and visiting is available for all in a planned way that we can communicate properly to residents and their relatives and loved ones.”

The survey also found only a third of members who ordered personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Government’s portal in October were able to get sufficient supplies.

The remaining two-thirds said they were able to get around 48% of the quantity they needed on average last month.

Free PPE ordered through the portal is intended for staff use.

It is not clear whether the Government’s pledge of free PPE over winter will be provided to care homes for visitors’ use.

If not, this is another cost care homes may have to meet.

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