Care bosses express concerns over family visits

PA

Care home bosses have raised concerns that government plans to allow relatives to visit loved ones have not considered the extra precautions staff will have to take.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that more than a million rapid testing kits will be distributed so that visitors can be checked for Covid-19 before being allowed in to see residents.

But care providers fear this could compromise infection control and put added stress on homes which are already receiving calls from relatives asking when they can visit.

Staff have not received any training on using the tests and bosses are concerned about what they say is a hastily thought-out plan.

And they claim some local authorities are telling homes to refuse visits rather than offering them help on managing the situation.

Keith Gray, from Care North East, which represents hundreds of homes across the region, said: “We know how difficult it has been for people not to be able to see their relatives in the past month.

“And, while we understand the sentiment behind this decision, the Government has not taken into account the practicalities.”

He added that if staff have to test visitors, that will take them away from their regular jobs.

There are also concerns about the sheer number of visitors wanting to visit at once.

Mr Gray said: “There is a lot of concern among our members that this hasn’t really been thought through properly.”

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Earlier this week, the National Care Forum welcomed the Government’s plans but stressed the need for support to make them happen, saying the move is “on the money – but without the money!”

Meanwhile, the medicines regulator has said that batches of the newly approved coronavirus vaccine can be split into smaller numbers of doses.

And it has emerged that Scotland plans to get the jabs into care homes by mid-December.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said on Wednesday, in a document outlining conditions of authorisation, that batches can be made smaller.

At a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday evening , NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the vaccine would not reach care homes until confirmation that it could be safely divided.

Asked for comment, NHS England would not commit to a date to roll the vaccine out in English care homes.

The MHRA document said “further packing down” of batches to aid deployment could occur at 2C to 8C within 120 hours of leaving cold storage.