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Care home lived experience should inform future pandemic visiting guidance, researchers say

Better data, peer exchange, engagement in policy-making and learning from care home managers’ and staff’s experiences could support better visiting guidance during a future pandemic, researchers have found.

The study concludes that national visiting guidance during the pandemic was challenging for care home managers due to factors such as late and incomplete guidance, particularly in relation to dementia, inconsistent regulation, fragmented systems of local governance and poor central-local coordination. There was also insufficient account taken of workforce challenges.

Researchers concluded: “Underlying many of the challenges experienced were structural issues, for which there have been longstanding calls for investment and strategic reform. For increasing sector resilience, these should be urgently addressed.”

Adding to the research, Care England says providers of care for people with learning disabilities faced specific challenges, notably due to the predominant focus of the Government on the older person sector throughout its Covid response.

Key centres of experience for providers of specialist LD care during Covid cover the following:

  • Government guidance; issued late and not user-friendly
  • Managers commonly learnt about frequent updates to the guidance through televised Government announcements, often on Friday with written guidance not available until days later
  • The Government guidance, and subsequent updates, were widely considered ‘open to interpretation’
  • Guidance and advice from local regulators and stakeholders, variable and uncoordinated
  • Wider information, advice and support; valuable but duplicative, overwhelming and confusing
  • Restrictive interpretations, and lack of discussion about wider risks and harms and human rights- insufficient recognition of dementia, end of life and other specific needs
  • The importance of care home leadership and staffing
  • Sector may have been less afflicted if longstanding calls for investment and strategic reform had been heeded.

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