While Australia’s active COVID cases in aged care have dropped to just three, UK operators are warning against blanket bans on visits as the country faces a second national lockdown.
A group of over 60 organisations led by the National Care Forum (NCF) has penned an open letter to Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care secretary, and Helen Whately, the Care Minister, calling for visits to aged care homes to be the “default” position as a new month-long lockdown starts tomorrow.
During the first wave of COVID cases, visitors were restricted in most homes – currently around 50% of facilities have visitor restrictions under the tiered alert system in England.
The group wants the decision making to be left in the hands of individual homes working in collaboration with their residents, relatives and staff.
They also want the Government to “fully support” testing of visitors and urgently push through plans – currently at pilot stage – to treat designated visitors as key workers.
Under their plan, every resident should be allocated at least one “key visitor” who would be able to access regular testing, PPE and training alongside the home’s staff.
“We all understand that visiting in care homes is a very human balancing act that centers around people and their needs, and the risks for those living and working within a care home and relatives and friends too,” Vic Rayner (pictured above), executive director of the National Care Forum, said.
“However, we must balance the risk of harm from COVID-19 with the risk of harm from isolation and physical, mental, emotional deterioration.”
The group has given the Government a deadline of the end of November 2020 to implement its recommendations – but with the lockdown currently only set to last until 2 December, will any commitment come too late?