Families can finally look forward to reunions with older relatives in the coming days after Matt Hancock proposed that the ban on visiting a nursing home be lifted soon.
Now that the coronavirus crisis has subsided, the health secretary said the visit ban will “end soon.”
Details on how care homes in England can work safely Covid-secured visits will be announced shortly, almost four months after the doors were first closed to visitors.
But care home bosses have claimed to have been ‘left in the dark’ about when and how to reopen.
The social care sector has been devastated by the coronavirus after the infection went through houses and killed nearly 20,000 elderly people in England and Wales.
Charities have said that restricting family visits has had “harmful effects” on the health of residents with dementia.
The health secretary said the ban on home visits could be lifted in the coming days
He told ITV News last night: “People long to see their loved ones, and the residents of care homes are getting so much from visitors.
“It has been a very, very long period and that period when there have been no visits to nursing homes is coming to an end.
“I sincerely hope we can make this change in the coming days. We have been very careful with it and we have to do it right.
“We need to make sure it works for every region, but I hope we can make that change soon.”
CARE HOMES SAY THEY ARE ‘LEFT IN THE DARK’
Since England has been cautiously cut off from closure since May 10, nursing homes say they have been left in the dark when they can do the same.
Care England, which represents most independent providers, says new guidance in England is essential – and it is “not right to detain people with care and support needs indefinitely.”
On Twitter it wrote: ‘We don’t know why @DHSCgovuk [Department of Health] is unable to make quick decisions in times of crisis.
“As the country unlocks, caregivers are in the dark about what is permissible in terms of visitors to their residents, or even residents who leave their homes during visits.”
Visitor guidance should have been a priority for @DHSCgovuk, as care homes are central to fighting this horrible pandemic – says @ProfMartinGreen.
Professor Martin Green, Care England’s general manager, said the industry was told that guidance from the elderly visiting nursing homes department was “on the way” a month ago.
Commenting on BBC Radio 4’s Today program in response to the decision to relax the rules on shutting down care homes, he said: ‘We need clear guidance from the Ministry of Health and Social Care and in fact we are waiting been there for over a month. ‘
Mr. Hancock suggested that there should be no reunions for all of the approximately 400,000 care home residents in England, as assessing the risk would depend on local infection rates.
Virus-free care homes in Scotland already allow family members to visit. Northern Ireland follows similar rules from Monday, while Wales has allowed visits since 1 June, provided they are socially distant and outside.
In response to the news, Professor Martin Green, general manager of Care England, said a “balance” had to be struck between allowing family visits and protecting care home residents from further outbreaks of the coronavirus.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “Families are a very important part of healthcare delivery, but at the same time, you have to be very, very careful, because, as people know, healthcare institutions have been severely affected during this pandemic.
“People who live in care homes are probably most at risk, so if there is an outbreak of Covid-19 it will have serious and very tragic consequences, so I think we need to balance people’s need to be in touch with their relatives and families, but we also have a responsibility for the protection and safety of people in care homes.
“I think treating people as key figures will ensure that tests are available on a regular basis – also with some new tests that will be available soon and that will be much faster to get results, which can also help.”
It is because charities have warned that the limits for visits to residents of care homes with dementia have had “harmful consequences.”
In a letter to the health secretary, they write that the care provided by family members is “essential” to the residents’ mental and physical health and should be viewed as a key worker in terms of access to care homes and regular Covid tests, the BBC reports.
Employers from Dementia UK, Alzheimer’s Society and other leading charities called on the government to “urgently” tackle the “hidden catastrophe” in nursing homes.
Many nursing homes across the country stopped a week or more before friends and family came to visit to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The elderly are most vulnerable to severe Covid-19 infection and death, so the signs of potential destruction were evident early on.
However, the coronavirus has still battered the healthcare sector due to a number of errors, the largest of which was the discharge of hospital patients to nursing homes.
On March 19, the NHS guideline said that patients should not be in a hospital bed unless it is necessary to clear beds for coronavirus patients.
Mr Hancock – and many other ministers before him – claim that people have been discharged on an individual basis and that the hospital is often a risky place for a vulnerable person.
But a negative coronavirus test was not needed to allow for transfers or hospitalization admissions, the counsel said on April 2.
This was prior to and during the peak of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, when thousands of people were diagnosed daily in the community and hospitals.
As of April 15, the government said that all patients discharged from hospitals would be tested for coronavirus following a riot.
At the time, more than 28,116 elderly patients had been moved from hospitals to care homes in England.
There are no official statistics to indicate how many cases of coronavirus have been brought into nursing homes through this route, but Chris Hopson, head of the hospital’s NHS caregivers, claims that ‘a very small number of asymptomatic Covid-19 patients have been discharged to social security.
Asymptotic people, or “silent carriers,” are those who have the virus but show no symptoms.
They were unlikely to have had a test during the Covid crisis because tests were only offered to people with symptoms until the end of April.
It was also problematic that the elderly were more likely to have atypical symptoms and therefore may not seem to have the virus.
The government insists, and other leaders around the world were unaware that the virus could spread asymptomatically.