Majority of care homes facilitating indoor visits – survey

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
·3-min read

Indoor visits are taking place in more than 60% of care homes run by not-for-profit providers, according to a survey of members by the National Care Forum (NCF).

But the group warned that visiting would be in jeopardy if much-needed Government funding to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in care settings was not extended beyond March.

It surveyed members a week after the Government said care home residents in England could start receiving visits from a nominated person.

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The Government also said residents with the highest care needs could receive visits from a loved one who could provide essential care or support.

Some 53 care providers responded to the NCF survey, which represents 429 care homes supporting 17,234 residents.

In more than 60% of the homes, the majority of residents had identified a nominated visitor and these visits were taking place, the NCF said.

And a “growing number” of visitors were being identified as an essential caregiver.

A PA infographic showing weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in the UK
(PA Graphics)

The poll found that the majority of homes were using Government funding to help them deliver safe visits.

Some 83% of care homes were using the Infection Control Fund to facilitate visits including providing additional staff, cleaning, and space for testing and visitors.

And 85% of respondents were using the rapid testing fund to provide staff to carry out and record the testing of visitors.

Both funds are in place until March 31, and care groups have not yet heard whether they will be extended.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was reviewing the need for further funding and that decisions would be made “in due course”.

The NCF said there were “grave levels of concern about how visits could be sustained” without their continuation.

Chief executive Vic Rayner said: “It is impossible to understand why the Government, with less than two weeks to go before the end of March, is remaining silent about continuing the funding that has been central to enabling the reintroduction of visiting at pace and scale and the ongoing programme of rapid testing for visitors, staff and residents.”

She added: “This heavy reliance on the emergency funding to make visiting happen means that, without this money, the return to regular visiting is being put in jeopardy.

“The Government must immediately confirm that this funding will be extended or risk breaking the commitment to an ‘irreversible’ step forward around visiting.”

Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said contact with loved ones “is not an optional extra”.

She said: “Any care home supporting residents to safely reconnect with their families is welcome news.

“Sadly, our helpline hears that this is not happening across the board and we continue to support families trying to get access.”

She added: “The sector must be supported to facilitate this contact and ensure services are as safe as possible, including adequate sick pay so that staff don’t have to choose between self-isolating or paying their rent.”